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Monsters of the Deep, Dark Ocean

It was common practice among medieval cartographers to draw all sorts of sea monsters in areas of the ocean that were unexplored or believed to be dangerous. And while it may seem we are running out of unexplored spaces on our maps these days, there yet remains one final frontier where monsters do indeed live: the deep ocean.

As the water darkens, the creatures get stranger, developing all sorts of mutations to better adapt to the pitch black, high-pressure environment. Many creatures in the bathyal zone of the sea are blind as sunlight barely penetrates that deep into the water, and the only other light comes from marine life that has developed bioluminescence as a way to attract prey or protection.

Here are some of the most alien and frightening deep sea animals:

1. Giant Squid

Deep sea creatures: giant squid
Straight out of tales of kraken, colossal tentacled beasts who bring ships down to the bottom of the ocean, comes the giant squid: a predator that can reach 43 feet in length. It feeds by grasping its prey with sucker rings attached to its two tentacles (its other limbs are more correctly referred to as arms) and tearing it apart with its powerful beak and saw-like tongue.

2. Vampire Squid

Deep sea creatures: vampire squid
Despite its alarming name (its full scientific name is “vampire squid from hell”!), blood-red eyes and the inside of its cape being lined with terrifying spines, this cephalopod is actually harmless and mostly feeds on refuse. Its body is covered in special organs that are capable of emitting dazzling light to disorient would-be predators.

3. Giant Isopod

Deep sea creatures: giant isopod
Though superficially similar to shrimp and other more familiar crustaceans, this segmented monstrosity is actually more closely related to the woodlouse (otherwise known as roly-poly). These heavily-armored beasts are primarily scavengers, but are known to also feed on living animals, and in one filmed case, a giant isopod attached itself to a shark’s face, upon which it started feeding on it as it was thrashing about *shudder*.

4. Anglerfish

Deep sea creatures: anglerfish
Deep sea anglerfish are things nightmares are made of. Females have giant maws lined with long, sharp teeth and they employ a radiant appendage dangling above their head to attract gullible prey. Males are tiny and underdeveloped and reproduce by attaching themselves to the females, eventually fusing into the female’s skin and becoming a vestigial part of this monster.

5. Goblin Shark

Deep sea creatures: goblin shark
Though most sharks are terrifying, this one is also plain UGLY. In most sharks, the snout is directly attached to the maw, but not in the goblin shark. In fact, its jaws can distend forward like some kind of alien-monster, they can even protrude as far as the tip of its snout.

6. Pelican Eel

Deep sea creatures: pelican eel
Pelican (or gulper) eels aren’t actually eels, though they are closely related to them. Their most distinguishable feature is their giant maw, which can be used to swallow animals much larger than the eel itself whole. Its whip-like tail ends in a glowing bulb, which it presumably uses to attract prey, much like the anglerfish does.

7. Frilled Shark

Deep sea creatures: frilled shark
With its long serpentine body, pronounced gills and lines upon lines of hellish razor-sharp teeth, this creature is a true sea monster. Like other deep-sea creatures, tracking it is very difficult, but it probably catches prey by coiling and springing itself forward much like a snake. Another possibility is that it manipulates its own gills, causing water pressure to pull prey closer to its mouth.

8. Sperm Whales

Deep sea creatures: sperm whale
Though closer to dolphins and orcas than it is to true whales (which possess no teeth and feed by swallowing whatever enters their mouths as they swim), sperm whales are nevertheless one of the largest creatures on Earth, reaching a whopping 60 feet in length and weighing around 50 tons. They are the single largest predator on Earth, and one of the deepest diving mammals. They feed primarily on cephalopods, including the terrifying giant squid.

9. Stargazer

Deep sea creatures: stargazer
Despite its romantic-sounding name, this monstrosity is anything but. Named so because of its upward facing eyes and mouth, stargazers are ambush predators who burrow into the dirt of the ocean floor and snap up at prey foolish enough to swim too close to the bottom of the sea, often swallowing it whole in one fell gulp. To top it all off, they are also venomous.

10. Japanese Spider Crab

Deep sea creatures: spider crab
This crustacean, named for its lanky limbs which give it the appearance of a grotesque “daddy long legs” has the longest leg span of any exoskeletal invertebrate, and can it can reach 18 feet in total length, weighing up to 42 lbs. Despite their fearsome appearance, they are scavengers and foragers and are considered a Japanese delicacy.
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