What is the strangest animal ever found within the sea? Woo boy. We’ve obtained choices.
Even sea creatures that folks are usually acquainted with are fairly bizarre. Take flounder, with their flat our bodies and doubled-up eyes, or oysters, which seem like, let’s face it, principally mucus? And what about whales? We’re all simply okay with the idea of baleen?
But it solely will get stranger. In coral reefs and at deep-sea vents; at midocean ridges and in the dead of night, chilly depths, animals have developed some actually weird our bodies and habits so as to survive. The outcome are creatures as alien as something which may at some point be discovered on a far-flung planet. Sea creatures survive with out gentle, in virtually no oxygen, at unimaginable pressures — wherever they’ll eke out an existence.
So who’s the weirdest? We requested a number of marine biologists to seek out out.
Coral reef creatures
Coral reefs are residence to hundreds of species, so it is no shock that some are very unusual. Coral itself is fairly bizarre; in any case, reefs are constructed by coral polyps, kinfolk of jellyfish that extract calcium carbonate from the water to assemble protecting properties formed like brains, followers and crops. Even weirder, most coral polyps would not survive and not using a symbiotic relationship with an alga referred to as zooxanthella, which lives inside polyps and supplies vitality by way of photosynthesis in return for shelter and carbon dioxide.
The animal-built habitat of a reef, in flip, shelters different unfamiliar beings. Take the rose-veiled fairy wrasse (Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa), which lives in deep, poorly lit reefs referred to as “twilight reefs.” These fish seem like one thing a 6-year-old with entry to the 64-crayon Crayola field may dream up: Their our bodies are a rainbow of pink, orange, purple and blue. Research revealed within the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B in 2020 discovered that coral reefs present the right surroundings for the evolution of gaudy colours. The clear water permits women and men to see one another nicely, they usually might evolve colourful our bodies to draw mates; the structural refuge provided by arduous corals signifies that animals face much less prices for his or her showiness than animals in additional open waters, as a result of they’ll extra simply escape predators regardless of being fairly seen.
Another frequent coral reef denizen is the bullethead parrotfish (Chlorurus sordidus), which has a number of the strongest enamel on Earth, based on the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History — all the higher to chew up the arduous exoskeletons of coral to get to the tasty polyps inside. As if this weight-reduction plan weren’t odd sufficient, parrotfish additionally sleep in cocoons of their very own mucus to guard themselves from blood-sucking parasites.
Perhaps the weirdest animals present in reefs and off the coasts of tropical Pacific islands, nonetheless, are the sacoglossans. Sacoglossan interprets to “sap-sucking,” mentioned Jeanette Davis, a marine microbiologist, science communicator and writer of the youngsters’s guide “Jada’s Journey Under the Sea” (Mynd Matters Publishing, 2022). Sacoglossans are extra usually generally known as “solar-powered sea slugs,” Davis instructed Live Science. These colourful slugs feed on algae, stealing a number of the algal chloroplasts, mobile organs that allow photosynthesis. Yep, these slugs can glean vitality proper from the solar. They may use molecules from the algae for protection, and a few of them might assist defend human well being, too.
“Through my work as a marine microbiologist, I worked with a team of scientists to ultimately help discover an anti-cancer compound that is produced by a marine bacterium associated with alga that is hijacked by a sacoglossan and used as a defense molecule,” Davis mentioned.
Floating within the deep
The open waters of the ocean aren’t as chock-full of life as coral reefs. But what does stay there’s virtually universally bizarre, particularly within the darker, deeper reaches. Making a powerful case for absolute weirdest are siphonophores.
“People struggle to understand siphonophores at all,” mentioned Steven Haddock, a marine biologist on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute who research these oddities in addition to different gelatinous creatures. Siphonophores function like a single organism, however they’re really colonies of particular person, asexually reproducing organisms that tackle totally different roles inside the bigger complete. Researchers in Australia as soon as noticed siphonophores as much as 150 ft (45 meters) lengthy. Haddock instructed Live Science that his private favourite siphonophore is Erenna sirena, which makes use of pink bioluminescent lures to draw prey.
Another gelatinous favourite for Haddock is the bloody-belly comb jelly (Lampocteis), a deep-sea ctenophore. Ctenophores do not sting like jellyfish do; relatively, they sport sticky cells to entrap prey. The eerily named bloody-belly comb jelly is daring pink and propels itself by means of the depths with tiny beating mobile projections referred to as cilia, which appear to glitter as gentle hits them.
Also resplendent in pink is the strawberry squid (Histioteuthis heteropsis), a resident of the ocean’s twilight zone. It has one giant (and strikingly inexperienced) eye that appears upward to identify shadows solid by prey and one small eye that appears downward, in search of out indicators of bioluminescence from prey swimming under. For weirdness, although, the strawberry squid does not maintain a candle to the bigfin squid (Magnapinna), which has a physique so long as a greenback invoice and tentacles so long as a human. These distinctive squid are identified for his or her tentacles that bend at a 90-degree angle, making a bizarre “elbow.” They’ve been sighted solely about 20 instances since their discovery greater than a century in the past.
Life on the backside
Animals that hope to outlive on the backside of the ocean should do with out gentle and stand as much as the unimaginable stress of hundreds of meters of water. Famous residents embrace the blobfish, which appears to be like pretty unassuming whereas swimming hundreds of ft under the floor however deflates right into a saggy sack when delivered to the floor, the place the stress is 100 instances lower than what the fish is customized to.
Scientists are solely starting to catalog the opposite odd creatures on the ocean depths. Javier Sellanes López, a marine biologist at Catholic University of the North in Chile, has been exploring the seamounts off the coast of South America, turning up an array of recent or poorly understood species. Take Eunice decolorhami, a polychaete worm discovered residing in tubes 590 to 1,115 ft (180 to 340 m) deep on the slopes of the Desventuradas Islands and the seamounts of the Nazca Ridge. With what seems to be bulbous eyeballs and an underbite, these animals look extra like background characters in “The Muppet Show” than marine worms.
The researchers have additionally turned up samples of the eerie white-and-red crab Ebalia sculpta, a backside dweller that scuttles amid tube worms and anemones about 650 ft (200 m) under the floor.
“Its main distinguishing feature is a face carved into its cephalothorax [fused head and body] that resembles the image of an underworld being,” Sellanes López instructed Live Science. In different phrases, it is a deviled crab.
But let’s go deeper. Lisa Levin, a organic oceanographer on the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, nominated xenophyophores as considered one of her favourite unusual deep-sea creatures. Xenophyophores are single-celled organisms referred to as protozoans that clump collectively sediments to kind elaborate homes referred to as “tests.” These assessments look a bit like crops, corals or giant lichens. They’re discovered under about 1,300 ft (400 m) nicely into deep-ocean channels such because the Mariana Trench and, on this barren world, present shelter for invertebrates and creating fish embryos, Levin instructed Live Science.
“I find the fact that a protozoan can make a home for invertebrates or provide nursery habitat for snailfish to be a delightful idea,” Levin mentioned.
Less pleasant, maybe, are bone-eating worms (Osedax), a deep-sea oddity prompt by Scripps Institution marine biologist Gregory Rouse. These feathery pink worms eat with out mouths or guts, as an alternative excreting acid to interrupt down bones of lifeless marine animals. Females develop to be about 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) lengthy. Males are simply one-twentieth of an inch (1 millimeter) lengthy and stay in jellylike tubes clinging to females, present solely to fertilize the females’ eggs.
So, what is the weirdest sea creature of all? It could possibly be a crab carved with the face of Satan, a bioluminescent jelly factor that is really a complete lot of little issues, a slug that photosynthesizes or a worm that drills by means of bone with acid. Or perhaps it is one thing else. If there’s one assure within the ocean, it is that one thing weirder is all the time simply across the nook.
Originally revealed on Live Science.