Deep-Sea Oddities From the Census of Marine Life
From the dragon fish (which has teeth on its tongue) to a glowing jellyfish to a worm that lives in and devours whale bones, the Census of Marine Life has turned up some bizarre creatures. 


Imagine living in the sea where it's permanently dark and cold, and food is hard to find. For many animals at depth it may be weeks to months between meals. And when they do find something to eat, they have to hang on to it. That's why so many deep-sea fishes have lots of big teeth. This dragonfish even has teeth on its tongue! They'd be terrifying animals -- if they were bigger than a banana.

(Dr. Julian Finn, Museum Victoria)


These nocturnal echinoderms are called sponge brittle stars -- Ophiothrix suensonii. They are very common in the Caribbean. They are so named because they are found exclusively either inside or outside of living sponges.

(César Herrera)


Male Leptocheliidae are characterized by chelipeds, legs that in some cases significantly exceeding the body length. While normally held folded, they are extended fully forward during swimming. The extremely slender legs found in this group are unlikely to be capable of any feeding or locomotory function, however.

(Magda Blazewicz-Paszkowycz, University of Lodz)


Elpidia belyaevi, a new species of sea cucumber from the Arctic deep sea.

(Antonina Rogacheva, Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, Moscow)


Asteronyx loveni: a brittle star often associated with sea pens. Found off Sanriku in Japan, at a depth of 1,265 meters below the sea.

(HOV Shinkai 2000)


This deep-sea jellyfish has a unique method of self defense: When attacked by a predator, it uses bioluminescence to "scream" for help. This amazing light show is known as a burglar alarm display. 

(ROV Hyper Dolphin)


This worm (Osedax roseus, or the zombie worm) inhabits whale bones and devours them as energy sources. A large root in the bone hosts the creatures; oddly enough, all Osedax males are dwarfs and live on the trunks of females.

(Yoshihiro Fujiwara/JAMSTEC)

Paper Bubble

The Hydatinidae gen. sp. (red-lined paper bubble) was discovered off cape Nomamisaki, Kagoshima, Japan. This new species of gastropod was discovered from a sperm whale carcass in the deep sea. Its tiny eyes are protected by shields, like eyelids.

(Yoshihiro Fujiwara/JAMSTEC)


Branchiocerianthus imperator, a solitary hydroid. Found in Sagami Bay, Japan, at a depth of 670 meters.

(HOV Shinkai 2000)

Deep-Water Octopus

A deep-water octopus, Benthoctopus sp., found a staggering 2,700 meters deep in Alaminos Canyon in the Gulf of Mexico.

(I. MacDonald, Felder, D. L. and Camp, D. K.: Gulf of Mexico–Origins, Waters, and Biota. Vol. 1. Biodiversity)

Creature, Featured

A Phronima sedentaria, found in a salp -- a tubelike creature -- in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. 

(H. Bahena, Felder, D. L. and Camp, D. K.: Gulf of Mexico–Origins, Waters, and Biota. Vol. 1. Biodiversity)


Venus fly-trap, or Actinoscyphia sp., found at site GC852, 1,500 meters deep beneath the seas of the Gulf of Mexico.

(I. MacDonald, Felder, D. L. and Camp, D. K: Gulf of Mexico–Origins, Waters, and Biota. Vol. 1. Biodiversity)


Lambis chiragra, or the Spider conch.

(Shaoqing Wang)

Deep-Sea Anglerfish

Prehistoric six-gilled sharks, giant oilfish, swarms of crustaceans and unidentified fish have been caught on camera nearly a mile beneath the ocean at Osprey Reef, off the coast of Australia. This deep-sea anglerfish was captured at a depth of over 1,000 meters. 

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Deep-Sea Red Jellyfish

This deep-sea red jellyfish Atolla has been identified by scientists from the Queensland Brain Institute using high-tech cameras at the Osprey Reef in the Coral Sea, some 350kms north-east of Cairns off Australia.



This scary looking creature is a deep-sea amphipod crustacean, which lives in a dark world where the pressure is 140 times greater than on land.


Deep-Sea Jellyfish

This Peraphilla deep-sea jellyfish is well adapted to its dark environment.


Baby Octopus?

Most cephalopods (like octopus and squid) go through a paralarval stage that can look very different from the adult, although both share arms with suckers and large eyes for visual hunting. Paralarvae are generally semi-transparent, but have some photophores that allow them to change appearance very rapidly.

(Cheryl Clarke-Hopcroft/UAF/CMarZ)


The soft curled tail of this decapod larva indicates it is turning into a young hermit crab. Already almost half a centimeter, it does not have much time left in this unprotected form. As soon as this larva settles, it will be in need of a snail shell to protect its unarmored rear section.

(Cheryl Clarke-Hopcroft/UAF/CMarZ)


The larvae of many deep-sea fish are virtually unknown. This rare find of an angler fish larva caused great joy when it was discovered mixed in with a zooplankton sample.

(Cheryl Clarke-Hopcroft/UAF/CMarz)


An earlier stage of the larval tube anemone, this specimen looks as if it has a smiling face inside. The common types of sea anemones spend little, if any, time in the plankton, as compared to tube anemones, which spend much longer and appear to feed while there.

(Cheryl Clarke-Hopcroft/UAF/CMarZ)


The larval spider crab uses the numerous spines on its body to deter predators, but more importantly to increase its drag in the water to keep it from sinking, much like a parachute does.  Like other larval phases, it is important both as a dispersal phase, and to take advantage of the abundant food in the plankton. This fellow is several millimeters in size.

(Cheryl Clarke-Hopcroft/UAF/CMarz)

'Girdle-Wearing' Burrowers

Scientists last year described this new species of burrower, Culexiregiloricus trichiscalida, found 2.6 miles down in the Atlantic's Guinea Basin south of Cote d'Ivoire, Africa. Loriciferans, affectionately dubbed "girdle wearers" due to hind shells resembling a corset, are among the smallest known multi-cellular marine animals. This is a juvenile specimen with a body about 1/100th of an inch – roughly the width of three human hairs. 

(Gunnar Gad, Marco Büntzow, Deutsches Zentrum für Marine Biodiversitätsforschung / German Centre for Marine Biodiversity Research, Senckenberg Research Institute, Germany / Census of Marine Life )


This larval tube-anemone has already begun fishing for food with the tentacles it will use as an adult. The dark stomach suggests it is already a successful hunter even as it is about a centimeter in size.

(Cheryl Clarke-Hopcroft/UAF/CMarZ)


The zoea is the first larval stage of a crab, often with prominent spines to make it less attractive prey to larval fish.

(Russ Hopcroft/UAF/CoML)

Deep Sea 'Dumbo'

From pole to pole, surface to frigid depths, researchers have discovered thousands of new ocean creatures in a decade-long effort now nearing completion, called the Census of Marine Life. And there may still be several times more strange creatures to be found.

Grimpoteuthis looks like a primitive "dumbo" fish; the creature moves by flapping its ear-like fins. Researchers with the project have found about 5,600 new species on top of the 230,000 known. They hope to add several thousand more by October 2010, when the census will be done

(David Shale)


This new species of crab was discovered off the Pacific-Antarctic Ridge in the South Pacific Ocean. It was named Kiwa hirsuta kiwa, after the goddess of shellfish in Polynesian mythology, but has become known as the yeti crab because of its hairy appearance.

(IFREMER, A. Fifis)


Samples for DNA barcoding were taken from this file clam, Lima sp., during an expedition on Ningaloo Island, Australia.

(Gary Cranitch, Queensland Museum)


Sabellids, or fan worms, are feathery creatures that build tubes out of parchment, sand, and bits of shell.

(Gary Cranitch, Queensland Museum)

Epimera, a New Crustacean

A new species of Epimera, a 25-mm long amphipod crustacean, was found near Elephant Island, Antarctic Peninsula.

(C. d'Udekem d'Acoz, RBINS)


This colonial salp jellyfish was captured in a midwater column off Lizard Island.

(Gary Cranitch, Queensland Museum)


(Richard J. Mooi, CAML)

White Topped Coral Crab

This coral crab was found and collected in a dead coral head off Heron Island.

(Gary Cranitch, Queensland Museum)

Deep Sea Cucumber

At 2,750 meters deep in the Northern Gulf of Mexico, scientists found this odd, transparent sea cucumber, Enypiastes. The creature creeps forward on its many tentacles at about 2 centimeters per minute while sweeping detritus-rich sediment into its mouth. 

(Larry Madin, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Deep Sea Neocyema

Ranging from 2,000 to 2,500 meters deep, this bizarre, elongated orange animal is identified as a Neocyema. Scientists say it is only the fifth specimen of the fish ever caught, and has never before been seen on the mid-Atlantic Ridge. 

(David Shale)

Deep Sea 'Dumbo'

Isn't it cute? Grimpoteuthis looks like a primitive "dumbo" fish; the creature moves by flapping its ear-like fins. 

(Mike Vecchione)

Deep Sea Rat-Tail

At 1,700 to 4,300 meters lives Coryphaenoides brevibarbis, called the rat-tail. The fish lives on crustaceans it catches just above the sea floor. Tiny bones in its ear, known as otoliths, have growth bands countable like tree rings. 

( Rebecca Hunter)

Deep Sea Copepod

It may look like an ancient gold treasure, but it's really a magnified crustacean. This tiny copepod was collected from the depths of the Atlantic ocean this year. 


Blind Lobster

A blind lobster with bizarre "chelipeds" belongs to the very rare genus Thaumastochelopsis, previously known only from four specimens of two species in Australia. This one was collected by the Census in 2007. 

(Tin-Yam Chan, CoMarge)

Marine Spider

An Antarctic male pycnogonic bearing its eggs. The creature is a marine relative of spiders, and was found in the Larsen A area of the Antarctic Peninsula in 2007. 

(Alfred Wegener Institute)


A colorful crassota jellyfish.

(Kevin Raskoff, ArcOD)

Giant Bacteria

Giant baceteria found in sea-floor sediment off central Chile. 

(Victor Gallardo, ICOMM)

Ghost Shrimp

The Census of Marine Life found this new species of ghost shrimp in  mud volcanoes in the Gulf of Cadiz in the Northeast Atlantic. The thalassindean crustacean was collected at a depth of 1,324 meters. 

(Census of Marine Life)


An assortment of the ocean's oddest: polychaetes.


Cliona Limacina

The Cliona limacina, a shell-less snail, lives in the shallow waters beneath the Arctic ice. 

(Kevin Raskoff, ArCOD)

Jeweled Anemone Crab

The striped eye stalks of the jeweled anemone crab seem to stare back. 

(Andy Collins, CReefs)

The Black Swallower

Chiasmodon niger, a deep sea fish sometimes called "the black swallower," can devour fish larger than itself. 


Antarctic Sea Anemone

In 2007, the Census of Marine Life recorded the first observation of the recently discovered Antarctic sea anemone Stephanthus antarcticus. 

(Alfred Wegener Institute)

Roundnose Grenadier

The funny looking roundnose grenadier. 



A nudibranch photographed on a coral head off Heron Island, near Australia's Great Barrier Reef. 

(Gary Cranitch, Queensland Museum)


Like an underwater spaceship, Aequorea macrodactyla travels through the warm clear waters of the Celebes Sea in the western Pacific Ocean.

(Larry Madin, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Comb Jellyfish

A ctenophore or comb jellyfish, collected off Wassteri Reef, Heron Island, near the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. 

(Gary Cranitch, Queensland Museum)

Antarctic Ice Fish

As an adaptation to low temperatures, the Antarctic ice fish has no red blood pigments and no red blood cells. Thus the fish's blood is more fluid and the animal saves energy. 

(J. Gutt, Alfred-Wegener Institute)


A cuttlefish, spotted at Lizard Island, near Australia's Great Barrier Reef. 

(John Huisman, Murdoch University)

Deep-Sea Oddities From the Census of Marine Life

From the dragon fish (which has teeth on its tongue) to a glowing jellyfish to a worm that lives in and devours whale bones, the Census of Marine Life has turned up some bizarre creatures. 

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