The ocean is a massive place. It’s so massive that it covers almost 71% of our planet. Even though we are surrounded by oceans, mankind has yet to conquer this gigantic beast. We have only explored and uncovered 5% of it, leaving two thirds of the plants and species that live there undiscovered. According to Ward Appeltans, a marine biologist with the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), there are at least 1 million species in the ocean that are unknown to mankind. Today, most people are obsessed with zombies and aliens but little do they know that some of the most unearthly creatures in the universe lie beneath our feet.
1. The Goblin Shark: An unusual creature that was first discovered in 1985.
Goblin sharks are strange creatures with intricate jaws and ghostly complexions. Their weird appearance makes them look like prehistoric monsters. The first encounter of the species was in 1985, and today, they are mostly seen off the coasts of Japan. They are normally found at depths of 900 to 4,300 feet and can grow up to 12.6 feet long and can weigh up to 463 pounds. The goblin shark has tiny eyes but scientists believe that they do not have much use of them and rather rely on other senses such as electro-sensitive organs.
In 2003, after north-eastern Taiwan suffered an earthquake, more than 100 of them surfaced to the top and ended up in fishing nets. Although they have existed on this planet for a long time, very little is known about these creatures.
2. Vampire Squid: A creature that has the characteristics of both an octopi and a squid.
The vampire squid, scientifically known as Vampyroteuthis infernalis, lives at depths of 3,000 feet in warm waters; where there’s very little oxygen. It lives a solitary life and chooses to live at such depths because there is very little competition for food or threat of predators. Since food is scarce at such depths, the creature that has the characteristics of both octopi and squid, survives mainly on “marine snow”; the debris that falls to the ocean floor.
When the vampire squid spots a source of food, it extends a fine, long filament from its umbrella-like mouth. This filament contains a web of eight arms covered in suckers and spines called cirri. The filament traps the food and then slowly transports it toward the squid’s mouth; while cleaning off debris. One of the most interesting characteristics of the vampire squid is the fact that the filament can extend up to eight times its body length.
3. Polychaete Worm: A tiny but ferocious predator.
If these squiggly little creatures make you feel squeamish, then you might not want to know that the polychaetes rule the seas. Scientists estimate that there are at least 10,000 species of them, some of which are bioluminescent. The creature has managed to survive in almost all places; even the deep sea. Mainly found 3,900 feet/1,200 meters beneath the surface, the polychaete worm is a ferocious predator. Their tiny tentacles are designed to detect movements of their prey. When the polychaete detects a prey smaller than its size, it can turn its pharynx inside out and snatch the prey into its mouth. Thankfully, they don’t grow longer than 10cm and are often found near hydrothermal vents.
4. Dragonfish: A fish that resembles a real-life alien.
Also called the barbeled dragonfish, it uses its fang-like teeth to snatch prey in its deep-sea environment. What separates the dragonfish from the rest is the fact that they have bioluminescent photophores. The long barbel on the chin has a glowing tip that helps the dragonfish to attract prey at the depths of 5,000-7,000 feet. It can produce light in the red/infrared range, as well as in the blue/green range, in order to attract different types of fish at different depths.
The species of fish is also covered in photophores all along its lower and upper surfaces as well as under the eyes. If the dragonfish feels threatened or disturbed, these photophores light up; sending out a warning signal. The females usually reach sizes of about 40 cm long, while the males only grow to be about 5 cm.
5. Frilled Shark: Captures its prey by bending its body and lunging forward like a snake, while proceeding to swallow its victim whole.
Also known as a “living fossil”, the frilled shark is rarely seen by humans. Its scientific name is Chlamydoselachus anguineus, and the species was first discovered during the 19th century. The shark’s mouth is lined with 25 rows of backward-facing, trident-shaped teeth, with a total of 300 teeth; making it hard for the victims to escape. Although we have not been lucky enough to see how the frilled shark hunts, scientists believe that they hunt similar to a snake. They believe that the shark uses it’s posterior fins to launch itself towards its prey and snatches it using it’s long jaws. While the sharks typically reside in depths between 390 and 4,200 feet, we rarely see them unless they decide to come to the surface.
6. Giant Isopod: They’re creepy looking bottom dwellers that prefer a mud or clay floor, in which they burrow into for shelter.
Found in depths of 550 to 7,020 feet, giant isopods, scientifically known as Bathynomus giganteus, are found in the Pacific Ocean. They can grow between 7.5 and 14.2 inches in length and scientists believe that they have adapted to gaining size, in order to survive the extreme pressure of the deep ocean. The creatures mainly survive by feeding on dead animals that fall from above but are also known to feed on sponges. Giant isopods can survive without food for a very long time. One isopod from Japan survived for five years without taking a single bite before dying.
7. Chimaera: Also known as ghost shark or ratfish.
The chimaera is often called the “ghost shark” by scientists due to its elusive nature. The ghastly looking creature is hard to spot in its natural habitat. It was known to exist for decades but was only captured on camera in 2017. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California was able to capture this amazing creature with the help of an ROV.
The pointy-nosed blue chimaera – official name Hydrolagus trolli – is believed to have existed before the dinosaurs but their elusive nature makes it hard to study them. Unlike other sharks, the ghost shark chooses smaller prey and crushes them using the mineral plates they have instead of teeth. The ROV captured the first chimaera at depths of 8,500 ft off the coast of California.
8. Casper Octopus: A recently discovered species that thrives at the depths of more than 4000 meters below the ocean surface.
The casper octopus, also known as ‘Ghost octopus’ or simply, “Casper”, is a cute little octopus that was discovered in 2016, 4,000 meters below the ocean surface off Hawaii. The discovery was made by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) submarine robot. Although the octopus appears cute, it has a heartbreaking parenting strategy. Researchers observed the animal laying about 30 quarter-sized eggs on a dead sponge and then wrapping its whole body around it.
They found that the octopus stays in the same position and guards the eggs. The octopus stays put and does not even feed itself. Once the eggs hatch, it dies. Scientists are worried about their future, since metal industries are conducting mining operations and turning huge patches of seafloor into underwater mines to retrieve metal blobs. The metal blobs are mainly manganese nodule, a lump of rock, which plays a key role for the casper octopus’ reproduction. Without them, the species could diminish within a few years.
9. Anglerfish: Looks like something out of a science fiction movie. It uses natural lure to draw its victim closer.
The scientific name for anglerfish is Lophiiformes. The Anglerfish, an angry-looking deep sea creature, can easily survive on Earth’s most inhospitable habitat; the deep sea. Mostly found in the Atlantic and Antarctic oceans, over 3,000 feet (914 meters), the fish uses a tactic to find prey. The females have a piece of dorsal spine that protrudes above their mouths like a fishing pole with a bioluminescent tip. The tip lights up and catches the attention of prey and as they get closer, the fish pulls the built-in rod closer to its mouth; close enough to swallow the entire prey in one bite.
The males are significantly smaller than the females. When a free-swimming male finds a suitable female, it latches onto her by biting her with his sharp teeth. Over time, the male physically fuses with the female, losing his eyes and all organs, except for the testes. Females are known to carry around six or more males on her body.
10. Gulper Eel: A snake-like fish with elongated body and a glowing tail.
The gulper eel is an eel-like fish that is usually found in deep seas. While it’s not really an eel, it is the single member of the genus Eurypharynx. The deep-sea creatures are found in tropical and temperate oceans at a depth of around 3,000 to 26,200 feet. They occasionally travel to the surface if it’s hard to locate food in their natural habitat. Their snake-like body structure allows them to swim fast. While their bodies are usually small in size, their mouths are large enough to swallow prey entirely. In fact, the length of the jaws is almost one-fourth of their body length. As of now, very little is known about gulper eels because they are difficult to locate, as they live in deep seas.
What do you think of these creatures? Would you dare to explore the deep sea? Let us know your thoughts through the comments section.