In Photos: Spooky Deep-Sea Creatures
Life In the Shadowy Depths
Credit: U.S. Antarctic Program Photo Library
From frightful fangtooth fish and vampire squid to coffinfish and spiky, sinister sea urchins, plenty of strange and scary creatures lurk in the dark, cold depths of the ocean … Be brave and dive on in!
Credit: Theodore W. Pietsch, University of Washington
With its needle-like teeth and a pole-type structure protruding from its head, this fish looks more like an alien creature than something found here on Earth. This female specimen is actually a new species of anglerfish that was discovered in the deep waters beneath the Gulf of Mexico.
The fish, Lasiognathus dinema, has a curved appendage that sticks out of the organ at the tip of its “fishing rod,” which contains light-producing bacteria. Anglerfish nab meals by using this structure to trick fish that are attracted to the light.
Credit: Screenshot, Live Science/SERPENT Project Youtube video
This odd critter is proof that things can get weird in the deep sea. Very weird.
This noodle-like beast, Bathyphysa conifer, was seen off the coast of Angola in 2015 by workers at the oil and gas company BP. The workers were collecting video footage at a depth of about 4,000 feet (1,220 meters) underwater when they spotted what they said reminded them of the deity of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
B. conifer is a siphonophore, a group of marine animals that includes corals and jellyfish.
Credit: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research
This ghost-like creature was spotted by scientists in July 2016 during a mission aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Okeanos Explorer research ship. It marked the first time that this “ghost fish,” part of the family Aphyonidae, was seen alive and swimming.
The fish was seen swimming along a ridge, at a depth of 8,202 feet (2,500 meters), at the Mariana Trench National Monument. This protected area covers 95,216 square miles (246,608 square kilometers) east of the Philippines.
The “ghost fish” has translucent, scale-less skin and strange-looking, colorless eyes.
Credit: 2004 MBARI
Despite its terrifying name, the vampire squid is relatively tiny, reaching a maximum of 6 inches (15.4 cm) in length. It gets its name from its red coloring, glowing, bioluminescent eyes and the cloak-like webbing that connects its eight arms. Although it has similarities with both squid and octopuses, it is actually not a squid but in its own separate family, of which it is the last remaining member; as such, the animal is referred to as a “living fossil.” Its scientific name, Vampyroteuthis infernalis, literally translates to “vampire squid from hell.” Yikes.
Credit: Jared Benney | flickr.com
The terrifyingly toothy anglerfish became a common occurrence in little kids’ nightmares ever since it chased Nemo and Dory in Pixar’s “Finding Nemo.” To attract prey, the scary-looking fish uses a bioluminescent “fishing pole” that hangs just above and in front of its toothy face. The lure is actually a piece of dorsal spine packed with millions of glow-in-the-dark bacteria.
Credit: © Oceanlab, University of Aberdeen, UK.
This huge crustacean was one of seven“supergiant” amphipods discovered by scientists in 2011 while they were exploring one of the deepest trenches on Earth, the Kermadec Trench off the northeast coast of New Zealand.
These pale, leggy creatures are more than 20 times larger than their typical crustacean relatives. The supergiant amphipods (Alicella gigantea) were found 4 miles (6 kilometers) down in the Kermadec Trench, according to the researchers.
Monstrous Megamouth Shark
The megamouth shark, shown here, is an extremely rare species of deepwater shark. The megamouth swims with its mouth wide open, catching and sucking in fish and krill as it glides along. Its massive mouth extends past its eyes and is equipped with about 50 rows of small, sharp teeth on each jaw.
The Blackdragon Fish
Credit: Dr. Julian Finn, Museum Victoria
Another bottom-dwelling bioluminescent creature, the blackdragon fish has light-emitting organs arranged all along its belly to fool predators by changing its silhouette. The spooky fish also has bioluminescencant “flashlights” next to each eye that it can flash on while on the look-out for prey or to signal potential mates. As you can see in the above photo, the blackdragon fish is so toothy that even its tongue has razor-sharp teeth.
Credit: NOAA Ocean Explorer
The deep-sea Aequorea, or crystal jellyfish, has a translucent body and long tentacles that give it a ghostly appearance. A jellyfish’s tentacles, which trail after its body, can be less than an inch to120 feet (30.48 meters) long.
Creepy Crawly: Giant Isopod
Credit: NOAA OCEAN EXPLORER | OER
This deep-sea marine creature isn’t for those with a phobia of bugs: the giant isopod is a crustacean that lives at the bottom of the ocean and is related to shrimp, crabs, and… the roly-poly pill-bugs that dwell in your garden. But unlike their insect cousins, giant isopods can grow to be more than 16 inches (40.6 cm) long.
Credit: David Csepp | NMFS/AKFSC/ABL | NOAA
The fittingly named viperfish has long, needle-like teeth and hinged lower jaws. This deepwater monster prefers warm tropical waters, where it sinks its fang-like teeth into prey, immobilizing them.
Spooky Sea slug
Bottom-dwelling sea slugs come in all the colors of the rainbow, including blood red and a shade of neon blue that almost makes the above mollusk appear to be ablaze. Most sea slugs are carnivorous and some have sharp jaws and file-like rows of teeth. Called radula, these teeth are used to scrape away a prey’s flesh. Although most sea slugs are less than 2 inches in length, some species can grow to be more than 12 inches (30.48 cm) long.
Credit: Edith A. Widder | Operation Deep Scope 2005 Exploration | NOAA-OE | NOAA
A deep-sea jellyfish, the blood-red Atolla wyvillei emits a spooky blue light when it is threatened by a predator. Its bioluminescent light flashes in a hypnotic, rotating pinwheel pattern around its body.
Spiky Sea Urchin
Small, spiny and round, sea urchins often have sharp spindles surrounding their bodies to protect them from predators. Their coloring can be black, brown, purple, red or olive green. The California purple sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) in the above photo is a needle-y species that is a deep plum color.
Deadly Sea Cucumber
Sea cucumbers can be found calmly crawling on the seafloor, but their goofy appearance and benign demeanor hide a dark secret. When startled or attacked by a predator, some species of sea cucumbers release a toxic chemical known as holothurin that has the ability to kill — or at least stun — any animal in its vicinity.
Not all species of sea cucumbers (Holothurians) look like, well, cucumbers. Some species, which have swaying branch-like tentacles on one end of their long bodies, more closely resemble a chubby stalk of broccoli. Above is a colorful shot of a purple and orange-colored sea cucumber with its tentacles spread out.
This frightening fish is charmingly named stargazer, because its eyes are situated on top of its head. The fish burrows its flat body underneath the sand, hiding itself so that it is still able to peek out. It then hunkers down waiting to strike if prey swims by. Although many stargazers dwell in shallow water, Northern stargazers live in the deep waters off the Atlantic Coast.
Malevolent Moray Eel
The toothy, scary-looking creature pictured above is a moray eel. Most moray eels, including the Gymnothorax bathyphilus, a deepwater moray eel found in the South Pacific Ocean, have short, serrate teeth, though some species have longer, fang-like teeth.
This close-up view of the Gymnothorax undulates species of moray eel shows its distinctive pattern of light, lime-green speckles on a dark olive background. Its sinister smile brings to mind the malicious twin moray eels from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”
Found in deep tropical waters around the world, the coral-red armored searobins have bodies encased in heavy scales. They also possess prominent spines, with barbels on their chins for luring in unsuspecting prey.
Credit: Joel E. Van Noord
Named for its long, vampire-like teeth the fangtooth fish inhabits the extreme deep waters of the ocean. In proportion to its body size, it has some of the largest teeth of any fish. Although it may look scary, the endangered fangtooth only grows to about 6 inches (16 cm) in length.