NASA might consider space to be the final frontier, but there’s still much we don’t know about the depths of the sea, and about the creatures living there. But as researchers are able to benefit from advancements in technology, they continue to discover fascinating new species.
Check out these ocean creatures that range from beautiful to otherworldly to the stuff of which nightmares are made. These examples of amazing sea life might just change your perspective of the water forever.
When you live at depths of up to 10,000 feet, food can be scarce. This fish (also known as Chiasmodon niger) makes do by gulping down animals up to twice its own length and coiling the meal into its expanding stomach.
Blue Sea Swallow
Glaucus atlanticus is a tiny species of sea slug that floats along on an air bubble held in its stomach. Don’t let the pretty colors fool you, though. These slugs feed on Portuguese man o’ wars and store their prey’s stinging cells, which they then release when touched. Yikes!
Blue Sea Squirt
These tubular sea creatures might look like plants but they are actually stationary marine animals. The filter feeders commonly reside on rocks, ship hulls and even on the backs of large crabs.
Christmas Tree Worm
These spiral-shaped marine worms are found in tropical coral reefs across the globe.
Christmas Tree Worm
Averaging only about 1.5 inches in length, the sea creatures are found in an array of striking colors.
Named for its protruding ears, which are actually fins, this genus of deep-sea octopus includes at least 15 different species. The group is the deepest living of all known octopuses.
Flamingo Tongue Snail
These gorgeous gastropods live on coral reefs and use a sharp tongue called a radula to scrape away coral tissue, leaving only the skeleton behind.
The frilled fins on this sea creature give it a frightening, dragon-like appearance. Its 300 teeth don’t make it any friendlier. Fortunately, human encounters with these serpentine sharks are rare, as it typically lives hundreds of feet below the surface.
Warty frogfish have bumpy skin, which enables them to hide in plain sight.
Painted or spotted frogfish live among coral reefs and fit right in, striking prey as it swims close by.
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Sometimes called an elephant fish thanks to its protruding snout, this member of the chimaera family searches for food near the bottom of the ocean floor by stirring up sand with its snout.
They are most frequently caught in the waters around Australia and New Zealand, as seen in this Kiwi fisherman’s Instagram.
If these aquatic creepy crawlers look familiar to you, it might be because they are closely related to pill bugs (sometimes known as roly polies). They might look like humongous insects, but they are actually crustaceans. Giant isopods can sometimes grow to a length of over 16 inches, and they eat whatever they can find on the ocean floor.
Giant Manta Ray
With a wingspan of up to 29 feet, these enormous filter feeders have been threatened by commercial fishing. When feeding, giant mantas hold their fins in a circular shape to funnel food into their mouths.
These transparent, alien-looking creatures can be found in every ocean on earth. Glass squid range from less than 4 inches long to as large as nearly 10 feet long. Two of the squids’ eight legs grow noticeably longer than the rest.
Averaging between 10 and 13 feet long (but capable of reaching more than 18 feet in length), this bottom-dwelling shark has a long, rubbery snout and fang-like teeth. When feeding, their jaws extend from their mouths, making it easier to capture prey.
These translucent jellyfish are glowing, luminescent, underwater works of art.
This might look like a miniature, fuzzy bunny rabbit, but it’s actually a type of sea slug. Usually less than one inch in length, the slugs are covered in tiny rods that resemble fuzzy hair.
There are more than 2,000 known species of these shell-less mollusks that come in amazing shapes and vibrant color schemes.
Sometimes called the gulper eel, this scary sea creature boasts a massive jaw that lets it swallow prey as large as itself.
Pink Sea Cucumber
Unlike its sedentary, vegetable-like cousins, the Enypniastes eximia is a genus of sea cucumber that swims in deep waters. They range from pale pink when young to dark brownish-red or crimson as adults.
Aka the blobfish, these creatures live in deep waters off the coast of Australia. Its gelatinous body is ideal for the immense pressure of the water.
No, this fish did not get into its mother’s lipstick. This odd creature has fins that it uses to perch on like legs, and even uses them to walk along the sea floor.
Seemingly an unassuming fish, sarcastic fringeheads take refuge in old shells, crevices or other places where they can hide in wait.
However, when threatened, they go from inconspicuous little fish to something from Jurassic Park as they quickly become aggressive, opening their massive mouths to intimidate the threat. Kudos to Instagram user @bethyscuba for being brave enough to capture this picture!
While these ethereal underwater creatures may resemble celestial beings, they are sometimes called “sea butterflies” and are actually a type of translucent, shell-less sea slug.
These odd-looking fish live at the bottom of deep, open waters. Stargazers have flattened bodies and their eyes and mouths are on the tops of their heads, enabling them to bury themselves in the sand and suck in prey as it swims past.
Fish in the family Synanceiidae are known as stonefish. These sluggish bottom-dwellers live in shallow tropical waters.
Stonefish are thick with bumpy skin, large heads, big mouths and small eyes. They are found in a variety of colors. They are also venomous; their sting can be intensely painful and sometimes even fatal.
Contrary to its name and appearance, the vampire squid is not actually a squid. This unique deep sea animal has eight arms, two tentacles and connective skin that resembles a cape. When disturbed, the creature can invert its cape to display large, intimidating spines.
Venus Flytrap Sea Anemone
This large sea anemone behaves much like the plant of the same name. Venus flytrap sea anemones capture debris of organic matter as it floats through the water.
It’s easy to see where this sea creature gets its name, with its protruding, fang-like teeth and a long, slender body. The deep sea creatures grow to about one foot long and live in deep water down to 5,000 feet.
Living at the bottom of the sea, the females of this species sport a piece of dorsal spine that sticks out above their over-sized heads as a sort of built-in fishing rod. A luminous blob of flesh dangles at the end of this appendage, luring other fish to their demise.
In 2008, a team of marine scientists found this predatory fish during a census of Antarctic marine life. Similar to the anglerfish, the stareater lures its prey close enough to catch with its dangling chin appendage.
Also known as a spook fish, these eerie creatures have transparent heads. Their tubular, bright green eyes point upward when they search for food and face forward while eating.