Generally speaking, we humans like to think we’re pretty darn hot stuff. Here we are, lording it over the planet with no natural predators (other than our own foolishness), slapping down apartment blocks, hotels and McDonald’s outlets wherever we darn well please.
We’ve gotten complacent, I think. Scientists can clone sheep and grow human ears on mice’s backs. We’ve got Hot Pockets; tasty, hot ham-and-cheese snacks that can be ready in mere seconds. We have conquered the intellectual word, friends. There is nothing more to see here.
In Ye Olden days, smartphones and tablets and such would have been completely imaginable. We had zero clue about the geography of a lot of our planet, and would simply slap ‘here be monsters’ on maps to hide our ignorance. Today, by contrast, intrepid tourists regularly travel to some of the most remote and uninhabitable regions of the planet. Our knowledge has grown exponentially.
Scientists and explorers don’t have all of the answers, though. Not even darn close. One region that continues to be a huge darn enigma is the deepest reaches of the oceans. Research into the species that dwell there, as you’d imagine, can be difficult, time-consuming and expensive, and we’ve really only seen a fraction of what’s down there.
From what little we have seen, though, it’s clear that this is some vital work. There are some ghastly marvels from the depths of Beelzebub’s clogged underworld toilet down there, let me tell you. Are you ready to meet the likes of the freakishly gelatinous blobfish, the horrifying terrible-claw lobster and the vampire squid?
20 Blobfish: When The Ghostbusters' Marshmallow Man’s Face Melts
We’re going to kick this party off the right way, with the winner of a 2013 World’s Ugliest Animal poll: the blobfish. This aesthetically-challenged customer lives at depths of up to 3,900ft (1,200 metres), where the water pressure can be over 120 times stronger than at the surface.
With that in mind, it’s no surprise that it looks like a grotesque jello dessert you once ruined in home ec class. Don’t feel bad for the guy, though, because it’s quite content floating along with its mouth open, feeding on anything that happens by.
That poll wasn’t just smack talk, either: it was conducted by the Ugly Animal Preservation Society, who want to draw attention to and work with conservation programmes for under-appreciated animals.
19 Sarcastic Fringehead: Sounds Just LIKE Your Average Teenager
Ah, yes. If my fifteen-year-old self had a spirit animal, it would most definitely have been a sarcastic fringehead. Let’s not waste time making cheap jokes about that name, though, because we’ve got one holy heckola of a fascinating creature on our hands here.
The sarcastic fringehead, according to Owlcation, is found off the west coast of North America. They’re aggressive little things (about one foot in length), not taking kindly to sharing territory with others.
Their best party trick is a fantastic impersonation of that little-frilled dinosaur that ate Dennis Nedry in Jurassic Park, as you can see here.
18 Goblin Shark: Which Twisted Corner Of H.P. Lovecraft’s Imagination Did YOU Escape From?
Well, um… dang. This is a thing we’re looking at right here, friends. This is all kinds of a thing.
As a far-too-young child, I caught a little of Jaws one night while my parents weren’t around. You know, one of the toothier, chewier moments. Ever since, sharks have always given me the heebie-jeebies. And that’s just regular sharks, not ugly abominations like this.
The goblin shark is a very rarely-spotted deep sea denizen. It’s dubbed a living fossil, Owlcation reports, because the species can be traced back over 125 million years. They can reach four metres long, and, yes, they do look like something the grim reaper himself would saddle up and ride into battle.
17 Dragonfish: That Doesn’t Look Like Any Dragon I’ve Ever Seen
Hey, now. Whoa, whoa, whoa there. I’ve seen quite a lot of fantasy movies in my time. I know what dragons look like, and this, they do not look like. What are you trying to pull here, nature?
The dragonfish is a curious case, even among all of the weirdly-weird weirdery we’re looking at here. List25 reports that it begins life at the surface of the water, owing to the buoyancy of its egg. On heading down to the dank depths, it begins to produce light.
Thankfully, though, there are no mirrors down there. If you thought you looked like raw crapola in the morning, imagine the shock that awaited this thing if it could see itself.
16 Vampire Squid: Now That Sounds Friendly
Hmm. Okay. Vampire squid, you say? That doesn’t sound ominous at all. Come on, deep sea world, I don’t even know what you’re doing to us at this point.
Whatever the name may suggest, this thing isn’t in the habit of sucking blood at all. The ‘vampire’ thing is actually derived, as List25 reports, from the unusual cloak-like shape of its body and the deep red of its eyes. Eyes which are, incidentally, the largest of any animal in the world (relative to its size). There’s something strangely elegant and charismatic about it, another trait it shares with Dracula himself.
15 Anglerfish: Brrr, Those Teeth
Ah, yes. It had to be done. The anglerfish is a shoo-in for any rundown of some of the shadier-looking specimens deep in the ocean. Do you see those teeth? DO YOU?
The anglerfish is one of those iconic species that we’re probably all familiar with. It’s so named for its manner of attracting prey: they’re drawn to the growth on its head, which bobs around a little to resemble a smaller fish. Hoping to capitalise on that, Old Mr. Angler’s dinner approaches, to be swiftly introduced to its accomplice, Captain Gullet. What a tricksy thing the anglerfish is.
14 Frilled Shark: I’m Definitely Not ‘Frilled’ To Meet You
Okay, come on now. This isn’t funny anymore. That’s not a shark either. Nature, go and sit on the naughty stair and think about what you’ve done.
As with the goblin shark, this creature has scarcely changed at all since its distant relatives swam in the ocean during the dinosaurs’ day (according to National Geographic). Very little is known about it, as it’s so rarely seen by humans. From what research has been able to deduce, it tends to live at a depth of around 5,000 feet (1,500 metres). As for myself, I’d tend to prefer that it stay there.
13 Giant Spider Crab: I Am *NOT* Feeling It, Mr. Krabs
Now, usually, I have no beef with crabs. I find their teeny little eyes quite endearing, not to mention their wobbly way of walking. All of this, I’m totally on board with, but they had to go and become utterly gigantic, didn’t they?
This titan is truly the king of all crustaceans. The giant spider crab is found in Japan. It lives, according to National Geographic, at depths of around 1,000 feet (300 metres), and can grow up to 12 feet long. That is, I think we can all agree, one holy heckola of a big crab. You would not want to mess with this thing.
12 Giant Squid: Nope, You’re Not Kraken Up, This Thing’s Real
Can we pause for a moment to appreciate my fantastic pun in the headline there? We can? Thanks, friend.
Now that’s done with, let’s take a look at the giant squid. If you thought that the giant spider crab was excessively-sized, you haven’t seen anything yet.
This noble creature isn’t quite the beast it is in the movies. Pirates of the Caribbean’s kraken is taking a bit of theatrical license. Nevertheless, they are darn big. The largest ever found was 13 metres long and probably weighed around a tonne. They also have those famous eyes, which are about the size of dinner plates.
11 Chimaera: Even Uglier Than The Mythological One
In Greek mythology, the chimera was a horrifying hybrid creature, generally depicted as a lion with a goat’s head and a snail ending in a snake. Mythology goes to some strange, strange places, true, but liony-goaty-snakey things have nothing on this real-world abomination.
This is what a real chimaera looks like, right here. They’ve been found worldwide, way, way down, and our knowledge of them is strictly limited. From what is known, though, they’re less-than-picky carnivores, feeding on whatever they can really find. Not that there are many options for Michelin star-rated dining down there in the depths, you understand.
10 Giant Tube Worm: They Don’t Give a Single Crapola
As we’ve seen, then, it takes a special kind of creature to survive down in the crushing depths. Usually one so unattractive that just looking at it makes you question every life decision you’ve ever made, but it’s about more than just looking gross. It’s about hardiness.
All over the world, there are examples of animals adapting to survive the harshest possible environments. Some of them, however, are definitely just showing off.
Our buddy here, the giant tube worm, is just never bothered. Even remotely. By anything. “Crushing pressure, freezing temperatures, and zero sunlight isn't enough of a challenge for giant tube worms,” National Geographic reports. “They've adapted to thrive at the edge of hydrothermal vents, which spew superheated water saturated with toxic chemicals.“
9 Coffinfish: It Looks As Happy As It Sounds
As with the vampire squid, I’m picking up a bit of a vibe just from the name alone. I was proven quite correct from my very first look at this thing.
See that? Does that look like the face of a fish that’s happy to see you? That’s because it isn’t. It looks more likely to grind you up whole with its fangs and then gnaw its way through your entire family tree.
The coffinfish, as List25 rightly suggests, is an interesting mix of anglerfish and pufferfish, boasting the hunting technique of the former and the defensive spines of the latter.
8 Dumbo Octopus: How… Cute?
I’m conflicted here, I really am. I’ve been looking at this image for a solid ten minutes, and I can’t decide if it’s the cutest or more disturbing little creature I’ve ever seen. It just… it’s both simultaneously. How does it even do that?
This is the mystery of the dumbo octopus, a species named for the ear-like fin above each eye. A large species, they dwell deeper in the ocean than any other octopus on record. Some have been found happily bobbing about and doing their octopus thing at depths of 7,000 metres (23,000 feet) below the surface. Dang.
7 Fangtooth Fish
When it comes to naming deep sea species, science tends to keep things simple and literal. I can appreciate that. The vampire squid looks like a vampire, the anglerfish ‘fishes’ for prey. The giant spider crab? It’s a freaking massive spider crab. It all makes perfect sense.
Continuing that whole theme is the fangtooth fish, which (you’ve probably guessed already) certainly isn’t lacking in the bitey-bitey department. It’s a small species, about six inches at most, but its teeth are the biggest relative to its size of any fish, National Geographic reports. They’re usually found about 16,500 feet (5,000 metres) down.
6 Terrible-Claw Lobster: The Swiss Army Knife Of The Sea
No, wait, don’t tell me. I know how this works now. The terrible-claw lobster is going to have terrible claws, isn’t it?
Oh, yes indeedy-oh, friends. This particular species is quite new to the world of science, having been discovered as recently as 2007. While most lobsters’ claws tend to be slightly different in size, this one’s are completely different. We don’t yet know the difference for this disparity, but it does have an amazing Swiss Army knife sort of look to it.
This intriguing creature, which was found off the coast of the Philippines, has a teeny body, only an inch long. It’s also blind. It does not have a little pair of scissors and a nail file as attachments, though.
5 Pelican Eel: That’s No Pelican!
While we’re on the subject of animals that give us the heebie-jeebies, I’ve got to admit that I’ve never really been a fan of snakes. I like the elegant way that they move and the unique colouring some species have, but their eating habits are worse than a particularly messy two-year-old’s.
I’ve never seen a toddler unhinge their jaw the way snakes do, that’s for sure. The pelican eel is a rarity, seen only when accidentally caught by fishermen, and it… well, its jaw is the stuff of nightmares. This is a tough one to even look at, if I’m honest.
4 Pacific Blackdragon: Let’s Stop With The Dragons Already
Clearly, the whole dragonfish thing deserves a second look, so let's head over to the Pacific next.
Now, see, this is frightening. These stealthy, toothy souls are ambush predators, and they’re perfectly suited to their grim and foreboding environment.
How? Well, they’re sheer black, for starters. Pacific Blackdragons’ stomachs are even coated with a special dark tissue, Oceana reports, so that the bioluminescence that is common in their prey doesn’t ruin their disguise.
What we’re looking at, in short, is an unstoppable and toothy ninja-eel. Does that frighten you? If it doesn’t, you probably weren’t paying attention. Still, I guess I do plan on heading about 3,300 feet (1,000 metres) below the surface of the Eastern Pacific any time soon, so I’m not expecting to meet one.
3 The Hatchetfish: Jason Voorhees’ Favourite
I’m not quite sure what it is about the creatures of the deep sea and their names. The scientists who discover these things must have a lot of fun, trying to creep the world out even more with each new discovery.
This little fellow is the hatchetfish. Menacing as it may sound (and that face is going to haunt my dreams for at least three months), it really isn’t anything to fear. The biggest hatchetfish don’t grow beyond five inches or so. it’s so named for its razor-thin, blade-like body. It’s built to dart around and avoid predators, not so much threaten anything larger than, say, half a carrot.
2 Sea Cucumber: An ‘Ew’ In Every Sense Of The Word
Okay, come on, now. Let’s back up a little here, nature. You’ve gone too far now. I mean, just look at this thing. This is what crawled out of the Chamber of Secrets in the second Harry Potter movie, isn’t it? Don’t even try telling me it isn’t.
All of that aside, this is the humble sea cucumber. Like our friend the giant tube worm, it’s not particularly exciting to watch. It just keeps on keeping on. It comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, and it performs a vital function in filtering and breaking down the various elements it finds down there in the deep.
1 Megamouth Shark: My, Grandma, What A Big Mouth You Have
Yep, I’ve saved the best and most frightening for last. I mean, surely we’re onto a winner here. This thing is called the megamouth shark. Look at that mouth. It could swallow entire countries whole, only to crave another about a half an hour later.
The thing about that is, we can’t judge solely on appearances. This thing may be 5.5 metres of pure nope, but it’s far from the hunter-predator you might think. It feeds on teeny plankton, which it cunningly lure into its mouth via a light source (a la the anglerfish). I wonder how many of those it takes to fill this mighty creature?
References: Owlcation, List25, National Geographic, Buzzfeed, All That’s Interesting, BBC News, Oceana.