Words by Daphane Ng
Illustrations by Tegan Iversen
The ocean makes up seventy percent of the planet’s surface, yet we know so little about it. Scientists suggest that we have only explored approximately five percent of it, but in that five percent we’ve already found these five whacky deep-sea creatures . So behold, as I introduce you to:
Found off the coast of Australia, the Blobfish is precisely what the name suggests —a blob. It doesn’t really have a skeleton, nor any muscle. Its gelatinous body is an adaptation to the (literally) high-pressure environment it lives in. It can be found in waters with pressure up to 120 times higher than that at the surface.
In September 2013, the Blobfish was voted the ‘World’s Ugliest Animal’ by the Ugly Animal Preservation Society. But we ought to give the poor guys a break. After all, we would be crushed to death if we were to dive down to such depths. It’s pretty remarkable they can survive down there. Considering, they actually look pretty normal down there in the ocean.
The Humpback Anglerfish resides in depths of temperate and tropical seas across the world. The distinctive ‘fishing rod’ hanging above its head is, interestingly, only found in females. The tip of the ‘rod’ lights up thanks to bioluminescent symbiotic bacteria. As seen in Finding Nemo, this light is used to attract prey, luring Marlin and Dory to swim toward this beast of a fish.
On the other hand, male anglers aren’t so special and do not posses the lure. Males grow up to three centimeters long, in contrast to the 18 centimeter-long females. As males mature, they attach themselves to a female using their hook-shaped teeth. His bite releases an enzyme, fusing their blood vessels together, and releases sperm to fertilise her eggs. He then spends the rest of his life attached to the female. Kinky.
The Vampire Squid lives in tropical waters at depths where virtually no light penetrates. It possesses morphological features of octopuses, squids and cuttlefishes.They can glow in the dark as a result of light-generating organs called ‘photophores’ which cover their body. They have large globular eyes which may glow red or blue. Their eyes are so big, that Vampires Squids claim the Guinness World Record for the ‘largest eye-to-body ratio’ of any animal.
The Vampire Squid has a number of nifty defense mechanisms in response to a threat. It can turn itself inside-out to form a spiky ball. This position, called the ‘pineapple position’, exposes their black-pigmented regions, making it difficult for predators to identify them in the dark. Vampire Squids can also escape from predators by ejecting a glowing mucous cloud.
The Black Swallower
The Black Swallower (warning: don’t try googling this) is renowned for its ability to swallow very large fish. It feeds on bony fishes, which are swallowed whole thanks to their highly stretchable jaw and stomach. Though it has never been seen alive, it is speculated that the Black Swallower captures its prey by the tail, then slowly engulfs the fish until it is fully coiled inside the stomach.
However, just because you can swallow a fish larger than you, doesn’t always mean you should. Super ambitious Black Swallowers sometimes swallow prey so large that decomposition sets in before it can be digested. This results in a release of gases which inflate and burst the Swallower’s stomach. They then float up to the surface, dead. Oops.
Not all deep-sea creatures are ugly and weird. Take for instance, Piglet Squids. The alignment of skin pigments makes them look like they’re smiling 24/7. As larvae, they are found near the surface of the ocean, and descend towards the depths of the ocean as they mature. Unlike other squids, they seem to enjoy swimming upside down, and being planktonic animals, they go where the currents take them.
Very little is known about their biology, but scientists have established this much: Piglet Squids look kinda like Gonzo from The Muppets.