The Scariest Monsters of the Deep

The Scariest Monsters of the Deep

A spook-tacular Halloween treat: Zombies, goblins, and ghoulish marine creatures galore.

 

By Brianna Elliott
Published: 10/31/2013

Photograph by E. Widder/HBOI/Visuals Unlimited
Deep-sea Anglerfish: Despite its mean-looking bite, this fish is small, reaching four inches long. You may remember the deep-sea anglerfish, which lives at depths of 1,000 to 5,700 feet in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and Atlantic Ocean, from Finding Nemo (it nearly ate Dory and Marlin). Females have a bioluminescent lure at the end of an illicium, or long rod, that they dangle to reel in other fish. When their prey swim toward the glow, the anglerfish chomp at their victim, sometimes consuming fish twice their size. They easily lure in prey by floating around, so they’re light and lack muscle. These fish are a prime example of sexual parasitism. When a free-swimming male latches on to a female, he hold fast with his sharp teeth. He eventually fuses with her, connecting to her circulatory system and becoming entirely dependent upon her for survival. A single female can carry up to eight males.


Photograph Courtesy of MBARI
Vampire Squid: Long thought to be a predator—its scientific name, Vampyroteuthis infernalis, translates as “vampire squid from hell”—this cephalopod hangs out and waits for dinner to come to it. It consumes “an abundance of marine snow raining down, consisting largely of poop, dead bodies and mucus discarded by other ocean life,” the Monterey Bay Aquarium reports. Unlike other squid, vampires use fin propulsion over jet propulsion, lack ink sacs, and don’t change color. When threatened, they flash bright photophores on their arms and twist in circles. And just before their escape into the abyss, they excrete mucus covered with blue bioluminescence, which holds their predator’s attention. Like many deep-sea creatures, females are remarkably larger than males.


Damien du Toit/Flickr Creative Commons
Giant Isopod: These bottom dwellers are one of the largest crustaceans, extending to about 13 inches in length. They’re found around the globe at depths of 550 to 7,000 feet. Like the pillbug, they curl their strong, thick skeletons into a ball when threatened. And they’re always on the hunt for a meal. “They’re scavengers and opportunistic predators,” says McClain. “They have amazing fat reserves because they can go quite a long time without feeding,” up to eight weeks in aquarium environments.  The crustaceans are in a constant state of semi-hibernation, but they’re quick to act when a prey passes by: The snap it up with their four jaws.


Photo by Hungarian Snow
Goblin Shark: These 12-foot-long bottom dwellers live at depth of 1,000 to 4,300 feet. They have 26 teeth on their top jaw and 24 on the bottom. When prey comes their way, they shoot their jaw forward and snatch it up. The long, flattened snout above their jaw is covered in electroreceptors that they use for hunting. Little is known about this shark species. Only 12 individuals have been caught, all as by-catch from bottom trawls, longlines, and deep-sea gill nets. Like their shark relatives, they’re ancient: Fossils date back more than 100 million years.


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