Ever since I started learning how to swim, I’ve been on a bit of a water kick. In this short time I’ve visited a couple of aquariums, gone beach combing more often, and started watching ocean creature documentaries on the Discovery Channel when I get the chance. Granted, the goal of this blog isn’t to showcase to beauty of the ocean, so the only solution is to reveal that it can be a very scary place. Just as H.P. Lovecraft so clearly understood!
Below is a list of creatures that will make you stick to the shore this summer!
The Umbrella Mouth Gulper Eel, or Pelican Eel – This disturbing looking creature is actually a deep-dwelling fish that fishermen occasionally drag up in their nets. It’s large mouth suggests that it’s able to swallow meals much bigger than itself, but inspected stomachs generally contain small crustaceans. It even has an organ on the end of it’s tail that can glow pink or red to lure prey. It lives in the temperate and tropical waters of all oceans at a depth of about 1,600 to 9,800 feet.
Anglerfish – It’s not enough that these little monstrosities live in the deep, deep sea luring smaller fish to their death, oh no! What’s really creepy is some anglerfish species practice a chilling form of parasitic reproduction. Males are born much smaller and underdeveloped than their female counterparts and cannot live for long on their own, so once they do find a female they bite down on her skin, releasing an enzyme that breaks tissues down and fuses them together at the blood vessel level. This is all to ensure that the female has an available mate when she is ready to spawn. Sounds lovely doesn’t it?
Mola Mola or Ocean Sunfish – This intimidating species is the heaviest boney fish known to man. It’s diet mostly consists of jellyfish, and lives in temperate to tropical ocean waters throughout the world. While not the scariest creature on the list, it’s odd shape and large size convinced me to include it.
Viperfish – This genus of fish are well known for the needle-like teeth on their lower jaw, which gives them their ghastly appearance and makes them one of the fiercest predators in the ocean. These guys are thought to be able to live 30 to 40 years in deep temperate or tropical waters. Like the angler fish and the pelican eel, this fish has a light producing organ with which to lure prey.
Proboscis Worm or Nemertea – No, nobody spilled their intestines on the ocean floor, it’s just a phylum of invertebrates that happens to be named after a sea nymph from legend. Like many types of invertebrates, when this worm is cut or broken up the pieces will eventually grow into separate animals.
Vampire Squid – The scientific name for this deep-sea creature literally means ‘vampire squid from Hell.’ Fortunately, it’s not literally a vampire; it was given that name due to the webbing between its tentacles which looks like a cloak, as well as its red or black coloring. This squid is able to live in waters with as little as 3% oxygen, a feat that few animals are able to do.
Basking Shark – Only second to the whale shark in terms of size, the basking shark has often been mistaken for the great white shark. Ovbiously from the picture, the basking shark has a distinct difference from it other shark kin. Even though that gaping maw is a jaw dropper, (sorry for the pun!) these guys are harmless to humans.
Blue Ringed Octopus – As cute as this little guys are, they’re also one of the most venomous creatures in the sea. They’re mostly located in coral reefs of the Pacific and Indian oceans, and are fairly docile until provoked. The octopus’s venom consists primarily of a neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin, which can cause major paralysis and respiratory failure. A human can die within minutes if not given immediate attention and there is no anitvenom; patients just have to be put on a ventilator and wait for the venom to leave their body.
Blobfish – These fish may look pretty normal at a depth of 2000 to 3,900 feet, but bring one up to the surface and this is what you get. It’s often accidentally caught by bottom trawling nets, and there’s a concern that this fish may become an endangered species. This thing is so darn ugly it’s the mascot of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society, a group dedicated to saving all the ugly animals that we humans tend to ignore.