Although there are millions of different species of animals on the planet, perhaps the scariest of all are the creatures who live on the ocean floor. These deep-sea creatures have made the lowest parts of the world their home, surviving thousands of meters below the surface. Down in those environments there are all kinds of hazards and complications. Food is often scarce, there is hardly any light, the water can reach almost freezing temperatures, and the pressure of so many feet of water is a crushing weight.
It is little wonder, then, that many animals of the deep ocean have only survived thanks to bizarre adaptations that would never have evolved in other places. While this makes for some rather nightmarish looking deep-sea fish, these terrifying marine creatures are simply doing the best they can to survive in one of the most difficult environments on the planet. Here are a few of these bizarre oddities of nature that are, fortunately, far enough away from the average land dweller to pose no real danger.
Goblin sharks are arguably the world’s deepest living shark, making their home at more than 1,000 meters below sea level. Their standout feature, and something that makes them look astoundingly ugly, is their huge mouth. The animal's entire jaw can be projected forward to trap prey in its mouth. This is possible because the jaw is not fused to the skull, but is held in position with cartilage and ligaments.
Researchers believe this bizarre adaptation is the result of the shark’s habitat. The deep ocean has a relatively less diverse group of creatures that call it home. The fact that the goblin shark can swallow a wide range of different sized prey gives it the chance to make the most of its scarce hunting grounds.
Scientific Name: Mitsukurina owstoni
The Pompeii worm is a species of polychaete (marine worms) that lives on the floor of the Pacific Ocean. Measuring just 13 centimeters long in most instances, they are bizarre-looking with their backsides covered in thousands of tiny bristles. They feed on microbes given off by hydrothermal vents, meaning they have to withstand water that is close to boiling point temperatures. Researchers believe that the bristles may be responsible for allowing the creatures to survive in this harsh environment. This is because the hairs are actually bacteria that work in symbiosis with the worm to provide thermal insulation. In turn, the Pompeii worm secretes a mucus that feeds their back-dwelling bacteria.
Scientific Name: Alvinella pompejana
What makes the harp sponge such an unusual creature, apart from its frankly bizarre appearance, is the fact that it is carnivorous. The vast majority of coral species get their nutrients from algae, depending completely on photosynthetic lifeforms for food. This particular example has a different method. Using tiny hooks that work in a similar way to Velcro, it is able to trap small creatures living on the ocean floor. Thin membranes then surround the trapped organisms as chemicals slowly begin to break them down.
The Atlantic wolffish lives on the hard ocean floor and rarely leaves its rocky habitat unless necessary. The low-level fish normally has blue-grey or purple coloring and is unique thanks to its coned fangs and the rows of crushing teeth that arm its jaw. The bizarre looking creature is also able to produce its own natural antifreeze to help keep blood flowing in the freezing cold temperatures where it lives. Unfortunately, the number of wolffish is depleting rapidly due to fishing, which could make for green crab and urchin population increases, as these are among the wolffish's diet.