It’s been said that 95% of all the waters in the world remains unexplored. The deepest parts of the ocean especially, are a challenge to unravel, as they pose lots of biological and engineering challenges just to get there. As such, almost anything that comes out of its dark depths always looks bizarre, almost alien to us. Let’s shed some light on some of the most bizarre deep sea creatures you won’t believe exist.
10. Weird Octopuses
Octopuses are already strange creatures. They have eight separate dexterous tentacles, a very squishy, flexible body, 9 brains, 3 hearts, and blue blood. They even have an intelligence level that rivals that of dolphins and orangutans.
However, our regular tentacled friends actually look rather tame compared to their deep-sea versions. Here are some of the strangest you’ll find in the deep sea.
Let’s start off with the flapjack octopus which certainly looks like something out of a Disney movie. They live between 200 to 1,500 meters below the ocean and are mostly native to the eastern Pacific, with a few species scattered throughout the mid-Atlantic ocean.
With its tiny size, gelatinous body, almost adorable build, and eyes that just seem to sparkle with curiosity, it completely differentiates itself from the more grotesque and extended build of an ordinary octopus.
Now, take a flapjack octopus, make it more translucent, and give it a rounder body, and this is what you have. The informally named ‘Casper’ octopus gets the inspiration obviously from its ghastly look.
First found thousands of meters deep in the Hawaiian seas, they have been observed to lay their eggs on the stalk of dead sea-sponges sponges and then guard them to the death… literally. They will wrap themselves around the sponge, without leaving, without ever feeding, until they finally die. Now that’s dedication.
For another Disney reference, look no further than the dumbo octopus. As you may have already guessed, its nickname is derived from its ‘ears’, which are actually fins with a peculiar shape.
Just like the flapjack and the ‘Casper’ ghost octopus, it also has a seemingly smaller build than the average octopus, which allows it to thrive at depths as deep as 7,000 meters below sea level.
09. Angler Fish
Of course, we can’t talk about the deep sea without mentioning just about every super wide-jawed oddity that lurks down there.
On the top of the list is none other than the angler fish, which gets its name from its unusual hunting method, which involves luring prey close to its mouth using that weird luminescent appendage coming out of its head.
Apart from that, it has a very unusual mating process. Similar to humans, male anglerfish spend their lives finding a single female through pheromones she releases. Once found, he bites onto the female and fuses onto her. And like a parasite, he gets his nutrients from her needed to survive, and is practically an on-demand testicle, ready to reproduce when the female needs sperm.
Another frightening fish is the viperfish, measuring around 60 centimeters, or 23 inches in length. It’s essentially an angler fish that looks even more alien. Its fanged jaws can open wide to almost 90 degrees, and its similarly configured bioluminescent lure can invite shallower fish down to their instant doom.
Probably even more hideous are deep-sea dragonfishes, a similar class of wide-jawed monsters that make viperfish look like their incomplete cousins.
The specialty of this fish is it produces both blue and red light. To emit this light, the species use organs called photophores typically located in front of their eyes.
The red light can’t act as a lure because most of the animals’ prey can’t see that shade. However, it does allow the dragon fish to stealthily illuminate their prey.
08. Pelican Flounder
The main challenge for any deep-sea organism isn’t actually the absence of light, but the crushing pressure levels. For the Pelican Flounder, the solution is simple: it makes itself as flat, and as flexible as biologically possible. The result becomes an amalgam of the nightmarish angler fish and the quirkiness of your average flounder.
The fish is actually native to the western Pacific and Indian oceans. Nothing much is currently known about the Pelican Flounder since they are rarely observed in their natural habitat. But if we are to point one specific trait that makes it really special as a deep-sea dweller, it would be its baby form.
Pelican Flounder larvae are some of the most alien-looking entities of the deep, akin to the otherworldly appearance of comb jellies which are small invertebrates found worldwide.
Like a mosquito, Pelican Flounder larvae are enveloped within their transparent flesh, only growing into their normal opaque brown color as they grow.
07. Giant Isopods and Amphipods
Sure, ancient trilobites and modern horseshoe crabs may look cute and all, but out on the deep seafloor, there are creepy crawlies that can take you millions of years back into the age of the giant insects.
Just take a close look at this Giant Isopod. Closer. Even closer. It’s extraterrestrial form and size will constantly make you wonder if it’s actually some form of mutated lice.
Don’t worry, it’s not going to jump on your face, they’re actually more of a scavenger than an active hunter. They also typically thrive in colder, deeper environments, which is why they’re technically absent in most temperate deep regions of the world.
Other forms of gigantic deep-sea crustaceans, like the supersized amphipods, also have an unusual alien-like appearance. It’s almost as if they’re the grotesque and mutated versions of their tamer counterparts on the shallow seas and land.
Thankfully, almost all of them are not as active as the wide-jawed hellspawn I mentioned earlier. They’re far less menacing to other species than they seem. Even less intimidating as we’ll never even get to meet one on land… probably.
06. Spider Crabs
Speaking of crustaceans, crabs also subjected to the same freakish transformations when the deep sea is taken into account. This time though, it’s not just their size, but rather, a whole different dimension of weird.
Japanese spider crabs, for example, don’t just hold the record for the longest legged crab, but they are also literally the longest legged arthropods ever. They can grow up to around 5 meters long. Although their body is relatively small, its main body can still grow a bit larger than the average human head.
The Hoff crab is another ghastly version of its normal counterpart. The deep dark depths made it almost featureless in terms of color, giving itself a pure white shell of nothingness.
The Hoff Crab got its name due to its dense covering of setae, which are hair-like structures, that resemble the hairy chest of actor David Hasselhoff.
It thrives near hydrothermal vents, where its setae feed upon sulfur-oxidizing bacteria nearby.
Even stranger are the various species of strange spiny crabs, which have yet to be properly classified or even identified due to their recent discovery.
The only thing evident though is that the deep-sea environment where they belong must have been really harsh for them to go several steps above the crustacean defense tree.
05. Colossal Squid
If there’s one persisting legend that turns out to be true of the deep, it’s that the deep sea is home to fantastic creatures that exhibit monstrous proportions. Its a well known scientific phenomenon known as ‘deep-sea gigantism‘. And one of the most gigantic creatures we know of that lives down there is the colossal squid.
The colossal squid is a gigantic cephalopod that is easily more than twice the size of a regular human. Occasionally caught in the southern seas of the Antarctic, we’ve never seen one in its natural habitat as we only know about them because they’re sometimes caught by fishing rigs. It may not be capable of capsizing ships, but it’s still the largest known invertebrate in the world.
Giant squid is another huge squid species. Compared to the colossal squid, they’re only about a third of their size, but they’re still larger than any regular person.
They have a huge intimidating beak you wouldn’t want to be eaten by. Though it can be just as elusive as its bigger counterpart, the giant squid has actually been spotted in its natural habitat, even twice, albeit only very briefly.
Speaking of deep-sea squids, the Vampire squid also deserves a special mention, with a weird, transitional body that is technically classified as split between a squid and an octopus. It’s not as gigantic, but it’s still equally monstrous with its cape-like webbing and spine-studded tentacles.
Don’t worry, it doesn’t suck the blood of its neighboring denizens. It, instead, is a particulate scavenger, preferring to dine on what’s already prepared as a meal.
04. Harp Sponge
As fearsome as they already are, sea anemones and other similar creatures have at least taught us that the oceans are also home to a number of immobile predatory feeders.
Therefore its only natural that the deep, dark sea will introduce us to something similar, only more horrifying. The Harp Sponge, for instance, looks just like its name suggests: an unassuming harmless piece of underwater living sponge shaped like a harp.
Most inert deep-sea creatures feed off from filtered marine matter. However, this one actively seeks a more scrumptious feast by snagging its victim with its Velcro-like hooks. With its meal unable to escape, it then completely envelops its prey and digests it.
Part of its menu includes various small fishes, those that are not strong enough to escape its microscopic hooks. However, it feasts on crustaceans as well.
03. Sea Toads
The sea toad is a rather simple name for this ocean-dwelling oddity, but it does kind of describe what an amphibian might look like when subjected to the crushing depths of the deep sea.
Think of a fish, that is smashed from front to back, and given tiny legs. That’s the simplest description of what sea toads look like. In the words of Sir David Attenborough, “it has been living so long in the depths, that its fins have changed into something more useful… feet.”
Not the most beautiful thing in the sea, but it definitely resembles something otherworldly.
Oh, and as with its close relative, the aforementioned angler fish, the sea toad is also a fierce ambush predator. It lurks, always patiently waiting, before its hapless victim finally ends up as sustenance.
Deep-sea siphonophores are long lines of jellyfish-like entities connected together, only guided by the organism behind and in front. They can get really long, like, as long as or even longer, than a blue whale, making them some of the longest animals in the world.
They stay alive by preying on smaller animals using stinging cells. Some types of siphonophere’s exhibit a simpler “long and slender” creature configuration. However, other types can have even wackier physical configurations.
Most of them though, such as the classic Portuguese man o’ war, do not belong to the depths of the deep sea, and as such not part of our dark oddities.
01. Gulper Eels
If there is one thing in the deep that is the literal stuff of nightmares, it would definitely have to be the Gulper eel. Its name alone conjures a disturbing image to those who hear it, and complete dread to those who can witness its full existence.
Its huge mouth, its most defining trait, is capable of extending and snapping like that of a snake. This allows it to munch and dine on stuff that a creature of its size wouldn’t normally be able to swallow.
Combine this with its very slender body and whip-like tail, and it’s capable of easily blending into the depths’ darkness. This makes it even more terrifying than the already monstrous angler fish.
Strangely enough, cusk-eels, despite being within the same category and habitat as the gulper eel, look vastly different and come in a variety of forms. They have all the normal features of regular fish but wrapped within an almost extraterrestrial-looking transparent form.
This is normal though, as at 8,200 meters deep, the cusk-eel is officially one of the deepest ocean-dwelling creatures on record.
To give you a rough idea of how tough as hunters these eel really are, both of them eat a staple diet of mostly hard crustaceans. They also inhabit a very large part of the world’s oceans. In fact, they can easily thrive anywhere so long as the climate is relatively warm.
Which creature did you think was the most bizarre? Let me know in the comments section down below.