Though humans have only explored about three percent of the ocean floor during their deep-sea ventures, they have found plenty of mysterious and otherworldly creatures. It makes sense that animals living in pitch darkness, freezing temperatures, and with little oxygen and food would be very different from the warm-blooded dolphins and angelfish that splash above. Yet, learning about them can still be quite shocking.
"Deep-sea creatures" refers to those that live below the photic zone of the ocean, which is the part of the water that is exposed to sunlight. These largely nocturnal creatures roam hundreds to thousands of feet deeper. From self-cloning abilities to light-up appendages, from translucent skin to telescope-shaped eyes, they have adapted to the harsh conditions with a number of remarkable characteristics.
Of course, these are just the deep-sea creatures that scientists know about; there are surely thousands more yet to be discovered. Until then, take this quiz to learn whether you can correctly identify the following 40 incredible deep-sea creatures. Can you pick out a ghost fish and vampire squid? Goblin shark and blackdragon fish? What about the black swallower? (Yes, they are as scary as they sound.) Go ahead and dive right in to find out!
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute / YouTube
This red-hued squid is the stuff of nightmares. Do you know what it's called?
The Vampire squid's scientific name, Vampyroteuthis infernalis, literally translates from Latin to "vampire squid from hell." Although it looks as terrifying as its name sounds, this creature can only grow about six inches long. Most likely, it won't escape from the deep sea to try to suck your blood, but just in case, you can rest easy knowing it's not that big.
NOAA / YouTube
So far, scientists have seen this translucent fish alive just once. Do you know its name?
In 2016, scientists observed this ghostly fish about 2,500 meters deep near the Mariana Trench National Monument, which is just east of the Philippines. It has no scales, colorless eyes and see-through skin.
Wiki Commons by Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE
These creatures live across the world's ocean floor. Do you know their name?
Sea cucumbers belong to the same family as sea urchins and starfish, and can often be found slowly crawling across the ocean floor. Although they look relatively harmless, they can combat predators by shooting toxic internal chemicals, known as holothurin, from their anuses. Yikes.
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) / YouTube
This frightening fish has a lantern-like appendage that lights its way in the deep, dark sea. What is it?
The fleshy growth that juts from the anglerfish's head helps it to lure prey much like a fishing pole, hence the species' name. Called the esca, this feature is only seen on female anglerfish. Meanwhile, the much smaller males act as parasites, latching onto females and eventually fusing into their skin and bloodstream. They lose their eyes and internal organs in the process. Yes, scary stuff.
oceannetworks canada / YouTube
This blood-red jellyfish is called what?
The Atolla wyvillei, also called the Atolla jellyfish or Coronate medusa, live across the world in the deep sea. The bioluminescent creature will flash an electric-blue light when faced with a potential threat, which is why it has also been nicknamed the "alarm jellyfish." The jellyfish's unique flashes inspired marine biologist Edith Widder's invention of E-jelly, which is used to lure mysterious and little-documented deep-sea creatures for filming and analysis.
Antonio Camacho / Moment / Getty Images
This menacing-looking creature dwells in both deep and shallow waters. Can you name it?
There are over 200 species of moray eel, many of which are found in the deep sea. They can usually be found hiding in caves and nooks until a predator or potential prey gets close enough to snap at. Moray eels are often considered apex predators in their ecosystems, since they feed on fish, octopuses and squid of all kinds.
BP, CNN / YouTube
This spooky, spindly creature is named for its resemblance to which meme?
When BP workers spotted the Bathyphysa conifer while collecting footage 4,000 feet deep off the coast of Angola, they knew just what to call it. Indeed, the creature closely resembles the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which is a deity from the Pastafarianism movement, as the popular internet legend goes. A member of the coral and jellyfish family, this animal clones itself in order to grow. As it replicates, it can grow to become one of the longest animals in the sea.
Wiki Commons by H. Zell
This is the largest arthropod known to humans. Do you know its name?
The largest crab in existence, the Macrocheira kaempferi's limbs can grow up to 18 feet long and it can weigh up to 40 pounds. They also have the longest lifespan of any crab, living up to 100 years old. While seemingly too frightening to mess with, apparently fishers still go after it, as it's considered a delicacy in Japan and elsewhere.
Wiki Commons by Tolanor (talk | contribs)
The bristly, crimson creature pictured here is called what?
The Paralithodes rathbuni is closely related to the California and Alaskan king crab. It grows up to six inches across and prowls the sea floor for prey like small crabs, sea stars and scavenged food. Thanks to its prickly movements, it can tear and feast on prey with ease.
Wiki Commons by Canvasman21 at English Wikipedia
This fish has eyes atop its head and loves to bury its body in the deep-sea sand. Do you know what it's called?
Although many types of stargazers live in shallow waters, Northern stargazers live in the deep sea of the Atlantic. They burrow in the sand to disguise themselves from potential prey, which they then ambush from below.
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa / YouTube
You've seen the largest crab ever. Now, here's the biggest squid ever recorded. What's it called?
Scientists estimate that the Colossal squid, or Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, can grow up to 45 feet long and weigh up to 1,650 pounds. They also have the largest eyes on record in the animal kingdom: about 16 inches in diameter. Yeah, you definitely wouldn't want to come face-to-face with this creature.
EVNautilus / YouTube
Can you identify this long, toothy fish?
This fanged fish from the genus Chauliodus can immobilize predators with one quick snap of its mouth. These frightening fish, which can be seen in colors like green, silver and black, may grow up to two feet long and live to age 40.
Wiki Commons by Silke Baron from Vienna, Austria
Can you correctly identify this spotted fish?
Also known as the striated frogfish, the Antennarius striatus is a small deep-sea fish that can change colors. Within a few weeks, a frogfish will shift coloration and pigment pattern to blend in with its surrounding area. It is often yellowish or brownish, but may also be gray, brown, green, white or completely black. It can also morph to have different stripes, blotches and other patterns.
Wiki Commons by Mark Green, CSIRO Marine Research., CSIRO
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has deemed this fish a critically endangered species. Can you guess what it is?
Brachionichthys hirsutus is a rare Australian fish that dwells around 100 feet deep. Its segmented pectoral fins look a lot like short arms with hands, hence its name. With these appendages, it often "walks" across the ocean floor; the species even seems to prefer it to swimming.
Wiki Commons by Mike Beauregard from Canada
What do you call these tubular beings?
The Riftia pachyptila are marine invertebrates that live on the floor of the Pacific Ocean near hydrothermal vents with chimney-like structures called "black smokers." Unlike other marine animals, the giant tube worms can tolerate extremely high hydrogen sulfide levels. As their name suggests, they are indeed giant, reaching lengths of up to eight feet.
Wiki Commons by Gdr (talk | contribs)
This deep-sea fish is rarely seen by humans. What is it?
Humans have caught sight of the jet black Eurypharynx pelecanoides, mostly because it mistakenly gets caught in fishing nets. Also called a gulper eel or umbrella-mouth gulper, the fish has velvety skin and a pocket-like mouth that can envelop creatures much larger than its size. Its tail has several tentacles that glow pink and, occasionally, red.
KQED San Francisco / YouTube
These bottom-dwelling creatures come in an array of colors. Do you know their name?
Deep-sea sea slugs range from cherry red to a neon blue illuminated by bioluminescence. These carnivorous creatures possess teeth that they use to scrape at prey. Most sea slugs are just inches long, but others may grow longer than a foot.
Wiki Commons by Peter Halasz.
Here's another prehistoric-looking shark to haunt your dreams. What is it called?
The Mitsukurina owstoni has sharp, needly teeth, semi-translucent skin through which you can see its inner organs, and highly extendable jaws. The jaws can open extremely wide, snapping up prey in one bite. It is thought to be the oldest living species of shark on Earth.
Wiki Commons by Sandra Raredon/Smithsonian Institution
Like many other sharp-toothed fish that swim in the down under, these fish look seriously menacing. What is their name?
Relative to its body size, the fangtooth fish has some of the largest teeth in the ocean. Although these fish may look scary, though, they only grow as long as about six inches and aren't known to be very aggressive.
Outside TV / YouTube
This species of squid grows up to six feet long and is highly predatory. What is it?
Also called the jumbo squid, jumbo flying squid and diablo rojo ("red devil" in English), the Dosidicus gigas are fierce hunters. When they run out of food, they are known to eat one another. Unfortunately, they have a reputation for being aggressive toward humans, so stay far away (you know, when you just happen to be roaming the deep sea).
Wiki Commons by Citron / CC-BY-SA-3.0
Here's another terrifying set of teeth to remember. What is this fish called?
The Anarhichas lupus has about four to six teeth on its jaws, three more rows of teeth behind that, and a throat full of serrated teeth. The Atlantic wolffish's long, snakelike body can reach lengths up to five feet.
Wiki Commons by Gdr (talk | contribs)
This silvery fish has a remarkable expanding stomach. Do you think you can identify it?
As you might imagine, the black swallower, or Chiasmodon niger, got its name for a reason. Although quite slender in appearance, its stomach can easily engulf prey twice its size and more than 10 times its mass.
Wiki Commons by OpenCage
Can you pick the name of this deep-dwelling shark from the list?
The frilled shark, or Chlamydoselachus anguineus, is often called a "living fossil" due to its many primitive features. Its mouth contains about 300 pointed teeth in total. To capture prey, it contorts its body and then lunges at it like a snake, at which point it can swallow the creature whole. Yikes.
Wiki Commons by Alexander Mayrhofer
These fish aren't strictly a deep-sea creature, as they can be found at depths both high and very low. Do you know their name?
Also called sea-devils, frog-fish or fishing-frogs, monkfish or Lophius, these creatures can be found across the Atlantic and Indian oceans. Their large, flat mouths and huge stomachs allows them to easily swallow prey as big as their bodies.
Wiki Commons by Peter Marriott
Can you guess the name of this aquatic species?
Stareaters, or Astronesthes, attract prey with the hook-like, bioluminescent appendage that extend from their chin. They tend to feed on krill, crustaceans and lanternfish. Fittingly, they are also sometimes called "snaggletooth."
Karen Gowlett-Holmes / Photodisc / Getty Images
The bottom-feeding fish pictured here is called what?
Also known as Triglidae or gurnard, these fish get their name from their expansive pectoral fins, which seem to flap like a bird's wings as they swim. They typically dwell in waters 660 feet deep, but sometimes use their fins to glide across the ocean's surface for short distances, similar to a flying fish. Birds aren't the only land mammal they emulate: When frightened, they make a croaking noise similar to that of a frog.
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute / YouTube
What's this peculiar aquatic animal called?
Also called "spook fish" or Opisthoproctidae, the barreleye are named for their tubular, telescoping eyes that generally turn upward to discern the shape of potential prey. The eyes sit inside a translucent, sloped area of soft tissue. Occasionally, they might direct their eyes forward.
Hal Beral / Corbis / Getty Images
This vibrant deep-sea creature is a parasite of the sea cucumber. What is it called?
These vibrant orange and purple shrimp are parasitic creatures and can often be found living off sea cucumbers. They might also latch onto other hosts like sea slugs. Emperor shrimp are considered commensal organisms, which means they benefit from the parasitic relationship while the other species remains unaffected.
Wiki Commons by NOAA Ocean Explorer from USA
This deep-sea shark grows up to 26 feet long, about the size of a great white. Do you know what it's called?
Also sometimes called a cow shark, the Hexanchus griseus can survive for at least a year without eating. Since it generally sticks to very deep water, its choice of predators can be few and far between. Often, it will feed on a decaying whale carcass that sinks to the sea floor, which it can then live on for another several months.
Wiki Commons by Jim G from Silicon Valley, CA, USA
Do you know the name of this deep-sea jellyfish?
The crystal jelly, or Aequorea victoria, can be found deep in the waters off the west coast of North America. Bioluminescence illuminates the jellyfish, which is almost completely transparent. The jellyfish's tentacles may range anywhere from less than an inch long to up to 120 feet.
Wiki Commons by Lycaon (talk | contribs)
This crustacean is related to crabs, shrimp and the roly-poly pill bugs you can find in your backyard. Do you know its name?
Giant isopods can grow to reach more than 16 inches long and look a lot like pill bugs for a reason: they're cousins. Like the pillbug, they can also curl up into a ball to defend themselves from predators. These isopods are considered the largest in the world.
Wiki Commons by NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, INDEX-SATAL 2010, NOAA/OER
Little is known about these deep-dwelling cartilaginous fish. Can you guess their name?
Chimaeras, also known as rat fish, spookfish, rabbit fish and ghost sharks, are not actually a member of the shark family. However, sharks are their closest living relative, even if they haven't shared an ancestor in 400 million years. The stitch-like markings on the fish serve to detect vibration and movement.
UNIVERSITY OF ABERDEEN / YouTube
This looks a lot like a shrimp, but is much bigger, as it reaches about 11 inches in length. Can you guess its name?
These leggy crustaceans are about 20 times larger than the crustaceans found much higher up in the sea. The supergiant amphipods were found off the northeast coast of New Zealand about four miles deep in one of the deepest trenches on earth.
Penelope Bielich via Storyful / YouTube
This deep-sea shark is rarely spotted by humans. What is it called?
The megamouth shark, or Megachasma pelagios, is a very rare species of deepwater shark. It swims with its mouth agape, scarfing down tons of fish and krill as it swims—hence its name. Inside the megamouth's mouth, you will find 50 rows of tiny, pointed teeth. Yikes.
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute / YouTube
The creature here always appears to scowl for the camera. What is it?
The coffinfish, or Chaunax endeavour, is a type of sea toad that dwells as deep as 8,000 feet. It often dwells on the ocean floor, using its tiny leg-like fins to "sit." This sea toad is actually a member of the anglerfish family.
Wiki Commons by Christoph Noever/Universitet i Bergen
Can you guess what this tiny shark is called?
Various types of lantern shark, which is a type of dogfish shark, are found across the deep sea and include the smallest sharks recorded. One little-known variety, the dwarf lantern shark, reaches a maximum length of just eight inches long. The lantern shark gets its name from its bioluminescent belly.
Ron Douglas and Julian Partridge / YouTube
Here's another creepy bioluminescent creature for the books. What is it called?
The black dragonfish, or diacanthus atlanticus, has a belly lined with light-producing organs that it uses to trick predators. As the lights change, the fish appears to shape-shift. They also have lights that jut from each eye that are used to hunt for prey or entice prospective mates.
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