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.
Officially known as chimaeras, ghost sharks are a type of fish that are incredibly rare. The fact they live so deep in the ocean and only survive in small numbers means it is difficult for scientists to video them. Despite their name, they are not actually sharks and belong to a genus of creatures that split off from the larger predatory fish some 300 million years ago.
Like many other deep sea creatures, they use electroreception to locate prey and have a venomous spine on their dorsal fin.
Scientific Name: Chimaeriformes
The erenna is a species of siphonophores that has been found living in the deep sea off the coast of California. Similar to a jellyfish, they appear to be translucent and have a gooey texture. However, they differ in one important aspect.
The erenna is not just one single organism but is actually made up of hundreds of tiny creatures called zooids that work together as a whole. This particular species uses bioluminescent red light to attract prey before stinging its victims to death.
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
What little is known of Pelican eels comes from a study of the very few specimens that have been caught in fishing nets. These creatures, found living thousands of meters below sea level and just above the ocean floor, are not actually eels as their name suggests.
In fact, they are a member of the genus Eurypharynx and don’t have a swim bladder, scales, or pelvic fins like true eels. Their most remarkable feature is a hinged mouth that is several times larger than their body. This huge structure allows the pelican eel to eat prey that is bigger than itself, although it primarily subsists on small crustaceans and squids.
Scientific Name: Eurypharynx pelecanoides