This list is definitely one for the books–Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! or The Guinness Book of Records will do. For those of you who’ve ever wondered what sorts of things are lurking deep beneath the ocean’s surface, here’s your chance to find out. Sit back and get ready for some truly terrifying discoveries that’ll make you think twice about going deep-sea diving. Here are ten frighteningly odd deep-sea creatures.
The blobfish is found in only a few parts of the world, so it’s rare that you’ll ever encounter one. But if you do, we guarantee you won’t ever forget it! This fish looks exactly how it sounds–like a great big blob. Its gelatin-like body is a little less dense than water. As a result, it floats slightly above the ocean floor, where it spends most of its time just lying around waiting for its prey to swim by. When its does, the blobfish opens its jaws and sucks in its food, which typically consists of small crustaceans and other edible matter.
Hagfish, also called slime eel, spew out four cups worth of slime in a fraction of a second when they’re threatened or disturbed. This slime, which is made up of mucus and thin fibers, clogs the gills of its predators. And, as if that’s not bad enough, the hagfish has a mouth with rows of razor-sharp teeth but no jaws, a skull but no spine, sightless eyes, and several hearts. Plus, they sometimes live inside dead bodies! Once inside, they begin eating the carcass. If they eat too much and get stuck, they have to live inside the carcass until the food digests.
-They use the tooth-like rasps on their tongue to bite into the flesh of dead and dying fish.
-They have a slow metabolism and can go for up to seven months without eating.
-Their hearts beat for hours without oxygen.
-They can tie themselves into knots thanks to a cartilaginous notochord that makes them very flexible. They often escape predators this way. They’ll just tie themselves into a knot and wriggle out of the predator’s grasp. Hagfish also use these knots as leverage when tearing off a piece of flesh from a carcass.
-They have a well-developed sense of smell and touch.
8. Deep-Sea Dragonfish
Also called the barbeled dragonfish, the deep-sea dragonfish has jaws that open wide, which comes in handy when eating large prey, which it often does. It then uses its oversized fangs to grab its prey. And, even though their jaw muscles are very weak, some scientists believe that their oversized fangs are what helps them snap their jaws shut around their prey.
As we just stated, deep-sea dragonfish love large prey–so large in fact that, thanks to its hinged skull, its prey is often bigger than its head. “These dozens of dragonfish species live in extremely deep areas of the ocean in almost total darkness. With a long, glowing barbel [hence the name barbeled dragonfish] hanging beneath their face, the creatures use bioluminescence to attract prey. But in the deep, dark ocean it could be months between one fish sighting and another. So these dragonfishes must be able to take advantage of any opportunity to eat—even something nearly their own size,” Smithsonian Magazine wrote.
-Part of the cranium tips back as the deep-sea dragonfish opens its mouth, allowing large prey to go head-first into its stomach.
-Not all species of dragonfish have the fully developed hinged cranium.
7. Red Spiny Crab
Also called the red king crab, this crustacean has sharp spikes protruding from its body. These spikes protect the crab from predators. The red spiny crab dines on sea stars and other crabs, using its enlarged front claws to grab its prey while using its mouth to tear, grind, or shear it. Sometimes, however, they scavenge on dead animals that fall from above. They also have been known to be cannibalistic at times.
-It’s related to the hermit crab.
-Its large size and decadent flavor makes it one of the most valuable, sought after sea creatures in the north Pacific, as well as the most coveted king crab.
6. Vampire Squid
This cephalopod feeds on garbage. It uses “fishing lines” that extend from its body to catch the rubbish (antennae, eyes, eggs, corpses, feces, etc.) that falls from the water’s surface. The vampire squid lives 600 to 900 meters below the surface in total darkness. But, the flashing organs found all over its body light up its surroundings.
Because the vampire squid lives in what’s known as the oxygen minimum zone (OMZ)–a place where most animals are choked off by the lack of oxygen–it rarely moves and has an incredibly slow metabolism.
FUN FACT: The vampire squid is not a true squid, although it’s closely related to them.
5. Giant Isopod
Giant isopods live between 550 feet and 7,020 feet below the surface in clay or mud, where they can seek shelter from predators. They are mostly found in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Japan and in the South China Sea, but they can also be found in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the West Atlantic Ocean between Brazil and Georgia. Giant isopods can go for months or years at a time without eating, but when hunger strikes, they eat just about everything in sight, including fish, crab, shrimp, and whale carcasses!
-Giant isopods can curl up into a ball like an armadillo.
-It is believed that they live in a constant state of semi-hibernation.
4. Giant Sea Spider
Found on the ocean floor around Antarctica, South America, Africa and Madagascar, the giant sea spider has a leg span that equals that of the world’s largest land spiders. This creature is carnivorous and literally sucks the life out of its prey. “They have a giant proboscis to suck up their food,” Florian Leese of Ruhr University Bochum in Germany said in an article on New Scientist magazine’s website.
Strangely enough, their bodies don’t have anything much other than legs (up to 12) and proboscis. And, they do have organs, but they’re in their legs. As for their respiratory system, well, it doesn’t exist. Instead, they “breathe” through diffusion, a process which delivers gases to all of the spider’s tissues.
FUN FACT: Giant sea spiders are sometimes called Pantopoda, which means “all legs.”
3. Flamingo Tongue Snail
This small, very colorful marine gastropod can be found on coral reefs in the western Atlantic Ocean. Not only do they live on coral reefs, but they feed on them as well. They do so by crawling very slowly along the bodies of their prey, then eating away the soft tissue until all that’s left behind is the coral’s skeleton.
-Flamingo tongue snails are predators of the gorgonian corals, which has toxic flesh. The snails are unharmed by the toxic chemicals. In fact, they end up becoming toxic themselves. As a result, potential predators are left with a nasty taste in their mouths (pun intended) when trying to feed on the snails.
-The snail’s bright colors don’t come from its shell but its soft tissue. The shell is actually somewhat drab and is usually surrounded by the soft tissue.
-These snails are often collected by people because they think their shells are colorful.
2. Frilled Shark
What kind of deep-sea-creature list would this be without a shark or two on it? And, boy is this some shark! The frilled shark is one of the oldest (80 million years and counting) living species on the planet. Its head resembles a snake’s head and it has 25 rows of needle-sharp teeth (300 teeth, to be exact). It quickly lunges those teeth into its prey, which includes fish, squid, octopuses, and other sharks. The largest frilled sharks can grow to six feet long!
-Its name comes from its gills, which have frilly, fluffy edges.
-Some scientists believe that because of the frilled shark’s flexible jaws, it’s possible for the creature to swallow prey whole that’s up to half its size.
1. Goblin Shark
To catch its prey, the goblin shark extends its jaw three inches out of its mouth! It then grabs its prey in its fang-like teeth, and, after finishing its meal, fits its jaw back into its mouth. And, if that wasn’t scary enough, these creatures can grow to 12 feet long and weigh up to a whopping 460 pounds!
Scientists believe that goblin sharks are likely sluggish creatures that are most active in the morning and evening. And, like other sharks, they’re likely solitary creatures.
FUN FACT: Goblin sharks get their name from mythical goblins that appear in Japanese folklore.
Have you ever encountered a frighteningly odd deep-sea creature? Please share your experiences below. We’d love to hear all about it!