If you’ve seen Finding Nemo (2003), then you probably remember the scene where an anglerfish attacks and attempts to eat Marlin and Dory as they search for P. Sherman’s diving mask, luring them in with a glowing dorsal fin. The anglerfish is one of the most bizarre-looking fish there is, which makes sense, considering how many anglerfish species live in the deep sea where bizarre is normal.
The deep sea, as you would guess, is the deepest part of the ocean. Even though light is incredibly scarce down at the bottom, marine life is more than thriving in the deep sea. Until the late 19th century, people believed that nothing could survive in the deepest areas of the ocean since sunlight can’t penetrate the water that deep. But they were proven wrong and scientists have discovered a variety of species, unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
Even though the deep sea is one of the least explored areas on the planet due to extreme pressures that cause difficulties for scientists exploring the area, in the years since the discovery of deep sea life, scientists have already uncovered a lot of different species.
Again, in the deep sea, bizarre is “normal.” And trust me when I say that plenty of deep sea species belong in a horror movie. If you want to see what some of these weird-looking creatures look like, then check out this list of 15 creepiest discoveries made in the deep ocean.
15. Vampire Squid
Vampire squid may sound like the name of a really weird and lame Syfy movie but it does in fact exist. However, the chances of it threatening any seaside town are practically nonexistent. The vampire squid only grows to six inches in length. But despite its small size, the vampire squid has rather large eyes which are about the size of a large dog’s. Upon its discovery in 1903, scientists erroneously classified it as an octopus until its true identity was later determined. They are found in tropical and temperate waters at depths ranging from 300 to 3,000 feet. It’s an ancient species, the last surviving of the order Vampyromorphida. The squid has two huge fins that serve as its means of transportation which makes it swim very fast. It can cover a space of two body lengths in a mere second.
14. Megamouth Shark
The megamouth shark is known as the “alien shark” for a lot of reasons. Not only is it incredibly rare with less than 60 sightings of it seen, but it is a creature shrouded in mystery. Nobody can really say for sure where megamouth sharks live. Most of the sightings came from the equatorial territories of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. But because there have been relatively few sightings of these beasts, it’s hard to say just how far they extend across the globe. While megamouth sharks are related to some of the fastest sharks in the world, they don’t share the same kind of speed. Megamouths are slow-moving gentle giants that much prefer to meander around in the ocean, picking up plankton and small fish in their gaping wide mouths.
13. Gulper Eel
At first glance, you can probably tell that the gulper eel is a lot different from other species of eel. The glaring difference is the size of a gulper eel’s mouth. Another name for the gulper eel is “umbrella mouth eel” due to its large mouth. The mouth is loosely hinged so the eel can swallow larger prey, such as squids and other small marine animals. Much like the mouth, the eel’s stomach is large so it can contain large prey the eel ingests. But unlike the mouth and stomach, a gulper eel’s eyes are very tiny, which is unusual for deep sea creatures since they normally have larger eyes so they can detect as much light as possible in their scarcely lit environment. Scientists believe that the eyes help the eel spot dim traces of light instead of creating images like other deep sea creatures.
12. Frilled Shark
The frilled shark is not only unique for it’s weird-looking appearance. In fact, its so unique that scientists have put it in a class all its own. This particular shark is known as a “living fossil” because it is one of the species of ancient sharks that are still living today—the only surviving species of its family. The fossil record for them measures back about 95 million years ago. The frilled shark can grow as long as seven feet in length and is armed with 300 teeth. They live all over the world at depths of up to 5,200 feet but have rarely been spotted by human eyes since they hardly ever visit the surface, making a sighting of one a newsworthy event. They feed on squid, fish, and other sharks and they can feed on organisms nearly half their size.
Chimaeras (not the fire-breathing hybrid monsters from Greek mythology) are known as ghost sharks for their distant relationship with sharks. Chimaeras have distinct characteristics which set them far apart from other sharks. There are approximately 28 species of chimaeras, ranging from 24 to 80 inches in length. They dwell in temperate to cold waters in oceans all over the world at depths of 8,200 feet or more, but one particular species of chimaera, the ratfish, tends to live in shallower waters, making it easier for scientists to study. As a result, more information is known about ratfish chimaera than other species of chimaera. It hunts by detecting the weak electric signals other marine organisms give off, feeding on shrimp, sea stars, crabs, clams, and more. Its mouth points downwards which makes it easy for it to gather food from the sea floor.
10. Japanese Spider Crab
The Japanese name for the Japanese spider crab is “taka-ashi-gani,” which basically translates to “tall legs crab.” It makes sense, considering the length of the legs on this creature. The Japanese spider crab is the largest of the crab species and also the largest anthropoid in existence. Their body may be 15 inches in length but their legs are unbelievably long—the legs on a Japanese spider crab can be as long as 15 feet. These animals reside on the seabed of the Pacific Ocean near Japan at depths of 500 feet to 1,000 feet, sometimes even more. In many areas of Japan, Japanese spider crabs are considered a delicacy, which has led to a decline in the population size as the species is constantly harvested as food.
9. Giant Isopod
Like its name would suggest, the giant isopod is one of the larger members of the isopod family. It can grow up to 16 inches in length. The reason for its large size is deep sea gigantism. It’s a phenomenon that affects organisms living in the deep sea, making them much bigger than similar species that live in shallower waters closer to the surface. These animals can be spotted in most oceans, ranging anywhere from 550 feet to 7,020 feet beneath the surface. The giant isopod is built with a hard but flexible shell which allows for the animal to roll itself into a ball when faced with danger. Large antennae help the isopod feel its way and maneuver around in the water since light is so scarce on the ocean floor.
8. Deep Sea Hatchetfish
Hatchetfish get their name from their hatchet-shaped bodies. Deep sea hatchetfish, however, look a lot different from the freshwater hatchetfish, which are a popular pick for fishkeepers. The deep sea hatchetfish can be found in the tropical, subtropical, and temperate waters of the Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans at depths of anywhere between 600 feet to 4,500 feet. It is half a foot in length and is coated in silvery scales. Hatchetfish, including the deep sea hatchetfish, generally have large eyes that point upwards which make it easy for them to spot food falling from above. Because deep sea hatchetfish live in the deep depths of the ocean where there is little light present, their eyes are perceptive when it comes to light and are great at detecting shadows.
Looking at the fangtooth, it’s probably not surprising that another name for it is “ogrefish,” considering its monstrous appearance. The fangtooth is also noted for having sharp teeth and for having the largest teeth in proportion to body size out of any fish. Fangtooth fish don’t grow more than half a foot in length. To add to its grotesque appearance, fangtooths have tiny eyes set at the top of their head. As a result of their poor eyesight, fangtooths have to rely on a lateral line to detect vibrations in the water and chemoreception to hunt down prey. One of the deepest fish species that has been discovered, the fangtooth thrives at depths between 600 feet and 6,500 feet in the temperate and tropical areas of the oceans.
With its pink balloon-shaped figure, the coffinfish would probably stand out a little more in the deep depths of the ocean if there was more light down there. The coffinfish is also unique in the fact that its entire body is enveloped in tiny spikes and the inside of its mouth is black. Coffinfish are 8.7 inches in length and they live at the bottom of the southeastern Pacific Ocean. Most coffinfish can be spotted off the east coast of Australia. They inhabit the waters anywhere from 900 feet to 1,000 feet beneath the surface but can be sighted just 165 feet beneath the surface. The coffinfish is almost like a cross between an anglerfish and a pufferfish because it has characteristics of both fish species. When they feel threatened, the coffinfish will puff itself up like a pufferfish and like an anglerfish, it uses a small lure to trap prey.
Stargazers are known as some of the ugliest and most frightening-looking fish out there. In addition to that, one fish scientist who keeps a stargazer as a pet called it one of the meanest fish in existence. The stargazer hunts by burying itself in the sand out of view and waiting for prey to swim by. Their eyes, as well as their mouth, are located on the top of their head, so they can spot any unfortunate fish swimming by and leap out to attack the unfortunate prey. Stargazers generally reach lengths of 8-10 inches but are more than adept at subduing prey that is 20-22 inches longer than them. They dwell in temperate and tropical waters all over the globe as close as 25 feet beneath the surface to as deep as 1,200 feet beneath the surface. Some species have venomous spines and can deliver fatal electric shocks.
4. Atlantic Wolffish
Atlantic wolffish and wolves have a lot in common. They are ravenous predators armed with powerful jaws and large teeth which allow them to rip through their prey with ease. Despite their powerful nature when it comes to hunting prey, Atlantic wolffish are far from aggressive towards humans and won’t attack unless they have a reason to do so. Measuring in at lengths of five feet, Atlantic wolffish inhabit the temperate and subpolar waters of the Atlantic Ocean at depths between 260 and 390 feet. However, some Atlantic wolffish can be found as much as 1600 feet beneath the surface of the water. Atlantic wolffish are popular targets for recreational and commercial fishers and they find themselves as meals on the table. As a result of this, their numbers have steadily decreased over the past several decades.
3. Dumbo Octopus
The dumbo octopus was named after Dumbo the elephant for its prominent ear-like fins. Unlike Dumbo, however, Dumbo octopuses are quite tiny, about eight inches tall. They use those fins to propel themselves through the water and they use their arms to steer. Sightings of dumbo octopuses are incredibly rare, mostly due to the fact that they inhabit the deepest parts of the deep sea at minimum depths of 9,800 feet. Sunlight is practically nonexistent down there and the water is extremely cold but the dumbo octopus has learned to adapt to its environment, scouring the sea floor for pelagic fish, snails, and worms to feast upon. Because dumbo octopuses dwell so close to the sea floor, there aren’t a lot of predators to worry about, except for sharks and killer whales.
2. The Black Swallower
The black swallower takes binge eating to a whole ‘nother level. Even though a black swallower only grows up to ten inches in length, it can ingest organisms twice its length and ten times its mass. The black swallower cruises around the deep sea at depths of 10,000 feet, gobbling up various types of fish. This marine organism hunts by sneaking up behind its prey and trapping the prey’s tail within its sharp jaws. It then proceeds to coil the prey into its swelling stomach where the digestion process can begin. But sometimes, the black swallower can bite off more than it can chew. On multiple occasions, black swallowers will attempt to swallow prey that is much too big for them. Before the prey can be properly digested, it’ll start to decompose and gases generated during this process can cause the swallower’s gut to burst open.
1. Goblin Shark
The goblin shark has an intimidating reputation befitting of its name. The most notable feature of the goblin shark is its extremely long rostrum (snout) which is covered in organs that help the shark distinguish prey by detecting the electric signals they give off. Another notable feature of the goblin shark are its long and disordered teeth, so long that they can’t fit all their teeth into their mouth when their mouths are closed. They are equipped with retractable jaws that make hunting a nearly effortless process. Sightings of goblin sharks are rare and they have hardly ever been caught on film. Scientists instead have to rely on the occasional carcass of these mysterious creatures that are accidentally captured by fisheries for research. It is believed that goblin sharks feed on squid and types of crustaceans.