10 Dazzling Denizens of the Depths
Throughout recorded history, few things have fascinated mankind more than the oceans and seas of our wonderful world. Part of that fascination was, of course, their movements and unpredictability. But perhaps even more, the unfathomable array of life with which the waters teemed drew our collective attention. As examples of the life with which we have long been fascinated, we present to you a list of 10 Dazzling Denizens of the Depths. That fascination has inspired us, captivated us, and at times terrified us.
The almost unimaginable array of life beneath the waves astounds us to this day. Despite our many centuries of sailing the waters of the world, Nature continues to astound us. We discover new species at almost every turn. Our knowledge of species, both new and long recognized, grows at an astonishing rate. Yet it still does not suffice to keep up with what Nature reveals to us. The forms of life presented herein represent a random selection for your reading pleasure and edification. We hope you enjoy learning more about them as much as we do.
Armored Snail Facts
- The remarkable Armored Snail represents a recently discovered species of marine gastropod mollusk which evolved an extraordinary adaptation.
- The startling discovery of this rather fascinating creature also occurred entirely by accident in 2001.
- Amazingly, this incredible snail actually evolved a method of utilizing iron sulfide in its shell. Indeed, it literally produces armor-plated shells.
- The United States military is also currently researching similar methods for developing military armor designs. Talk about an X-Men type of creature.
Armored Snail Physical Description
The shell of the truly astounding sea creature that men call the Armored Snail also appears to be composed of three separate and distinct layers.
The inner layer is mostly composed of aragonite. This is a form of calcium carbonate, common to many corals and mollusks.
The middle layer is organic in nature. It also measures as the thickest of the three layers and averages about 150 micrometers in thickness.
Finally, the outer layer measures roughly 30 micrometers thick and is actually composed of those unique iron sulfides.
This animal is indeed the only creature humans know of that actually uses metallic compounds to form its shell.
Species: C. squamiferum
Armored Snail Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
To date, the only known distribution of the rather impressive Armored Snail remains restricted to very specific sections of the Indian Ocean.
It was first discovered living at the bases of black smokers, in the kara hydrothermal vent field, which lies on the Central Indian Ridge.
Subsequently, however, researchers discovered a small population living along the Central Indian Ridge, near the Mauritius Islands.
It also lives as extreme depth dwellers. In fact, the vents individuals live near sit at depths of roughly 7,490 ft (2,420 m).
This animal is one of only a few to possess a method of feeding known as chemoautotrophy.
Great White Shark
Great White Shark Facts
- The Great White Shark represents a species of large shark inhabiting nearly all oceans. It also remains one of the oceans primary apex predators.
- This incredibly efficient hunter has no known predators of its own, except for rare attacks by orcas when other, easier prey cannot be found.
- It exemplifies a fast and far-ranging hunter. It can reach speeds of as much as 35 mph (56 kph) and depths of as much as 3,900 ft (1,200 m).
- The IUCN currently lists this terrifying, but nonetheless majestic creature as Vulnerable.
Great White Shark Physical Characteristics
The impressive Great White Shark attains a maximum known length of 20 ft (6 m) and weighs as much as roughly 5,000 pounds (2,268 kg). Reports of larger individuals occur but remain undocumented.
Most commonly it appears grayish in color on the top part of its body and white underneath. Like many species of sharks, the Great White has multiple rows of teeth.
Like all sharks, it also possesses a special sensory organ which allows them to detect the electromagnetic fields generated by the movement of living animals.
In this species, this sense seems to be especially acute, allowing it to detect a field of half a billionth volt. This represents less than that generated by the beating of a human heart.
Species: C. carcharias
Great White Shark Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
The astonishing Great White Shark inhabits virtually all temperate and tropical waters. It most commonly appears in coastal and offshore areas, at depths of as much as 1000 feet (300 m).
Yet, this mesmerizing hunter also often hunts at far greater depths in the open ocean.
The greatest known concentration of its numbers occurs in the waters off the coast of South Africa, in Africa.
Its lifespan averages 25-30 years. It remains famous for being a highly aggressive predator and feeding on a wide variety of prey. This includes tuna, dolphins, seals, sea turtles, sea otters, and even marine birds.
Glass Octopus Facts
- The incredible Glass Octopus possesses a nearly transparent body, leading some to compare it to glass, hence the name. Yet the fact that it’s transparent remains one of the few details we know about the species. Due to the nature of its habitat, encounters with this ocean species have been rare.
- While we know little about their numbers, the IUCN lists them as a Species of Least Concern. They hold this status due to their apparent wide distribution, despite little reliable data about their numbers. Yet their current status on the Red List of Threatened Species may change as more data becomes available.
- Though widespread, they do not appear to inhabit either the Arctic Ocean or Antarctic Ocean. Marine biologists also believe its transparent nature provides more protection than traditional camouflage. At the depths they inhabit, it renders them virtually invisible to prey and predators alike.
Glass Octopus Physical Description
Because of their habitat, and their transparent nature, the Glass Octopus remains quite elusive. Yet we have been able to determine a few facts about them.
They appear to reach an average mantle length of 4.3 in (11 cm), and an overall length of 17.8 in (45 cm). While relatively tiny, this cephalopod holds some surprises. One pair of tentacles grows shorter than the others, and suckers display small and widespread.
Their transparency does not comprise their only fascinating feature.
The eyes of this octopus have evolved in an almost perfectly rectangular shape. The evolutionary purpose behind this so far remains a mystery.
Glass Octopus Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
The remarkable Glass Octopus has a rather wide distribution across the globe. They appear to inhabit virtually all tropical and subtropical waters but remain a pelagic zone species, which contributes greatly to our lack of extensive knowledge of them. They inhabit depths ranging from 656 ft (200 m) to 13,123 ft (4,000 m), where we rarely venture.
While we know little of their reproductive processes, we do know the female broods hundreds of eggs at once. Undoubtedly carnivorous, experts assume their diet consists primarily of fish and small crustaceans sharing their zone.
Given their small size, their own natural predators likely include pelagic sharks and rays. Given the depths they inhabit, their transparent nature likely serves them well as a means of defense.
False Killer Whale Facts
- Despite their common name, as a member of the Blackfish group, the remarkable False Killer Whale isn’t a whale at all. This impressive ocean species actually represents one of the largest members of the dolphin family.
- This species exhibits the same spirit of playfulness that the smaller and better-known dolphin species do. As a result of their behavior, they remain the only member of their group to ride bow waves on a regular basis.
- However, due to their depredation of fishing lines, they continue to be routinely hunted in parts of their endemic range. Additionally, this predominantly occurs in Japan, where they, unfortunately, remain the targets of organized hunting drives.
- Due to such activities, in addition to other dangers, they now face grave concerns for their future. While the IUCN does include them on their Red List of Threatened Species, their current status remains Data Deficient.
False Killer Whale Physical Description
While the False Killer Whale ranks among the largest of dolphins, individual sizes vary. This occurs partly due to the presence of sexual dimorphism between the genders. Males attain a maximum length of roughly 19.7 ft (6 m), while females only reach 14.8 ft (4.5 m).
In addition, males develop a much stockier body shape. They average a weight of 4,850 lb (2,200 kg), while females – only 2,646 lb (1,200 kg).
In general, both genders display a primarily black color, yet some individuals will be dark gray. Also, lighter patches occasionally form on the throat and chest. The head has a narrow and rather pointed shape, with a prominent bulbous melon.
While they possess no beak, the upper jaw sometimes overhangs the lower one slightly.
Species: P. crassidens
False Killer Whale Distribution, Habitat and Ecology
The magnificent False Killer Whale has a broad, yet specific distribution. While they inhabit three separate oceans, they primarily occur only in the temperate or tropical regions.
They often appear on the surface, but they typically inhabit regions with a depth greater than 3,300 ft (1,000 m).
Like all dolphins, they remain carnivores and primarily feed on fish and cephalopods. Yet small marine mammals will occasionally be taken as well.
They possess a highly social nature and typically inhabit pods of between 10-60 individuals. They also often temporarily join with pods of other dolphin species, sometimes forming groups of hundreds.
This species reaches maturity at approximately 12 years of age, and have an average lifespan of about 60 years. Sadly, for reasons that remain a mystery, they also rank among the most common cetaceans to engage in mass strandings.
- The rather remarkable Narwhal, Monodon monoceros, sometimes called the narwhale, ranks as a medium-sized toothed whale and the animal with the largest canines on the planet.
- The mammal grows to be a medium-sized whale, or around the same size as related species. Total length in both sexes, excluding the tusk of the male, can range from 13-18 ft. (4-5.5 m).
- Typical adult body weight measures between 1,800-3,500 lbs (800-1,600 kg).
- Males attain sexual maturity at 11 to 13 years of age, when they reach roughly 13 ft (4 m) in length, while females do so at 5 to 8 years old when they reach about 11 ft (3.3 m) long.
Narwhal Physical Description
The pigmentation of the Narwhal develops as a mottled pattern, with blackish-brown markings over a white background, unlike any other species of whale in any ocean.
The coloring of the creature appears darkest at birth, becoming whiter in color with age. White patches develop on the navel and genital slit at sexual maturity. Old males may be almost pure white.
Narwhals do not have a dorsal fin – possibly an evolutionary adaptation to swimming easily under ice. In addition, the neck vertebrae do not fuse together but stay jointed, like those of land mammals. Both these characteristics are shared by the beluga whale, a fellow inhabitant of icy Arctic seas.
While the tail flukes of female narwhals have front edges that sweep back, those of males have front edges that are more concave and lack a sweepback. This is an adaptation for reducing drag caused by the tusk.
The most conspicuous characteristic of the male narwhal remains its single extremely long tusk. This actually represents a canine tooth that projects from the left side of the upper jaw, through the lip and forms a left-handed helix.
The tusk grows throughout life reaching lengths of as much as 10 ft (3.1 m). Despite its formidable appearance, the tusk is hollow and weighs only about 22 lbs (10 kg).
About one in 500 males has two tusks, which occurs when the right canine, normally small and less straight, also grows out through the lip.
Females may grow tusks sometimes, although the evidence on the frequency of this is somewhat conflicting. The tusks are surrounded posteriorly, ventrally, and laterally by several small teeth which vary in morphology and histology.
These teeth are vestigial and never erupt from the lip, as such the Narwhal’s mouth appears toothless.
Narwhal Distribution and Diet
The animal inhabits predominantly the Atlantic and Russian areas of the Arctic Ocean. Individuals also commonly appear in the northern part of Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait, and the Baffin Bay – off the east coast of Greenland.
The Narwhal often visits a strip running east from the northern end of Greenland round to eastern Russia. Additionally, the northernmost sightings of narwhal have occurred north of Franz Joseph Land.
Most of the world’s narwhals inhabit the fjords and inlets of Northern Canada and western Greenland.
They are able to survive diving to rather incredible depths of up to 4,900 ft (1,500 m) below sea level.
The Narwhal has a relatively restricted and specialized diet. Its prey predominantly includes halibut, cod, shrimp, cuttlefish, and arm hook squid. Additional items found in its stomach have included capelin, wolffish, and sometimes rocks, accidentally ingested when whales feed near the bottom.
Due to the lack of well-developed dentition in the mouth, Narwhals most likely feed by swimming towards prey until it is within close range and then sucking it with considerable force into the mouth.
Bobbit Worm Facts
- Bobbit Worm serves as the colloquially based common name for the Eunice aphroditois.
- This worm remains also one of the most unique and disturbing predators in any ocean.
- The animal officially classifies as an aquatic predatory polychaete worm.
- It remains extremely rare to encounter and as a result, very little information is certain about the biology of the species.
- Its teeth are razor-sharp, and the creature also strikes with such speed that its prey is often cut in half.
- Its name derives from a rather notorious event that occurred in the United States, in North America, in the mid-1990’s.
Bobbit Worm Physical Characteristics
The astonishing Bobbit Worm represents an extremely large species of aquatic worm. It typically attains an average length of roughly 39 in (1 m), but individual specimens have reached lengths of as much as 10 ft (3 m).
It also displays bright colors, most commonly including shades of bright purple. Its five antennae are useful for the detection of prey, while they remain hidden.
It is uncertain whether it possesses any toxins. Little is definite about the reproductive habits of the Bobbit Worm.
Evidence indicates that the creature likely possesses a relatively long lifespan.
Species: E. aphroditois
Bobbit Worm Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
The incredible Bobbit Worm lives in most tropical waters. However, it appears to be most common in the Indo-Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
It appears to prefer to inhabit the sand and gravel of the floor of the ocean. It will also inhabit various coral reefs. There it buries itself in the sand, with only its antennae protruding.
Once it has its prey, it typically pulls it beneath the sand or into a burrow.
Feather Starfish Facts
- The magnificent Feather Starfish ranks as one of the most beautiful and unique species of marine animal found in any of the world’s oceans.
- Their origins date back to the Ordovician Period, which began more than 488 million years ago. Therefore, they remain one of the oldest known classes on the planet.
- Also, as an echinoderm, this creature developed a distinctly different feeding process from most other animals. The Feather Starfish and its related species possess no true stomach.
- Yet, despite the name, they do not rank as true starfish. Yet, as crinoids, marine biologists consider them to be close cousins of the starfish as they share many of the same characteristics.
Feather Starfish Physical Description
The Feather Starfish attains a rather average size of approximately 12 in (30 cm). Despite their moderate size, they display spectacular beauty. Their arms branch numerous times and result in as many as 200 branches.
By and large, the more than 600 varieties display a vivid range of colors. The mouth appears on the upper surface, and numerous feeding arms surround it. This animal has a protective internal skeleton composed of calcium carbonate, just as true starfish.
Like its starfish cousins, this species also possesses a remarkable water vascular system, instead of a bloodstream. Lastly, they breathe by absorbing oxygen directly through their tube feet.
Feather Starfish Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
The most noteworthy fact about the Feather Starfish remains their wide distribution. They exist in the oceans of nearly every temperate and tropical climate. Furthermore, the various species inhabit depths ranging from the surface to approximately 30,000 ft (9,000 m).
This remarkable feeds by catching particles of food with its feeder arms and propelling it towards the mouth. They primarily feed on plankton, yet will also consume particles of detritus. While they themselves possess few natural predators, sea urchins have been known to prey upon them.
Reproduction occurs via spawning, and once hatched, the larvae mature rapidly.
Blanket Octopus Facts
- The Blanket Octopus, or Tremoctopus, is a genus of pelagic cephalopods. The genus contains four currently known species that occupy surface to mid-waters in subtropical and tropical oceans.
- The common name of the creature is in reference to the long transparent webs that connect the dorsal and dorsolateral tentacles of the adult females.
- In fact, the other tentacles are all much shorter and lack this unique type of webbing.
- This fascinating cephalopod displays the greatest degree of sexual dimorphism among non-microscopic animals known to man.
- In fact, females may be up to as much as 10,000 times the size of the males.
The Blanket Octopus Physical Description
Collectively, all of the known types of tremoctopus exhibit an extreme degree of sexual dimorphism. Indeed, females may reach 6.6 ft (2 m) in length, whereas the tiny males are at most a few centimeters long.
The coloring varies, of course. This genus, like most of its relatives, has the ability to change color at will. However, the most common colors display include silvery sides and dark blue or purple surfaces.
The males have a specially modified third right tentacle which stores their sperm. Further, this special tentacle is popular as a hectocotylus.
The Blanket Octopus Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
The Blanket Octopus inhabits all known tropical and sub-tropical waters of the world. It also appears to inhabit a wide range of depths, as well.
Interestingly, the Blanket Octopus is immune to the poisonous Portuguese Man O’ War, whose tentacles the male and immature females rip off and use for defensive purposes.
Like many other octopuses, the blanket octopus uses ink to intimidate potential predators. Also, when in danger, the female unfurls her large net-like membranes that spread out and billow in the water, greatly increasing her apparent size which is an evolutionary adaptation unique to this species.
The male dies shortly after mating is completed. The females carry over 100,000 tiny eggs attached to a sausage-shaped calcareous secretion held at the base of the dorsal arms and carried until hatching.
Flamboyant Cuttlefish Facts
- The flesh of this astonishing creature holds within it certain acids which make the flesh of the animal inedible for humans.
- Surprisingly, the Flamboyant Cuttlefish is also actually highly toxic. This makes the species one of only three known poisonous cephalopods in all the world’s oceans. In fact, the toxicity level of its venom is equal to that of the blue-ringed octopus.
- This seemingly innocuous creature ranks as one of the deadliest inhabitants of the seas.
Flamboyant Cuttlefish Physical Characteristics
The adult Flamboyant Cuttlefish typically attains an average mantle length of roughly 3.1 in (8 cm). The arms grow wide, and quite thin, and are covered in numerous small suckers which lay in four distinct rows.
The males also possess one modified arm which they use almost exclusively for reproduction. Further, the cuttlebone of this species is smaller than in others, relative to size.
The body colors are bright and interestingly vary widely among individuals.
Species: M. pfefferi
Flamboyant Cuttlefish Distribution, Habitat and Biology
The Flamboyant Cuttlefish forms a brilliantly colorful species of cuttlefish native to a particular region of the Indo-Pacific Ocean. That zone of habitation includes the waters of New Guinea, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
The Flamboyant Cuttlefish prefers comparatively shallow water. Also, due to the comparatively small size of its cuttlebone, it inhabits the ocean floor which makes it the only known cuttlefish species to do so. In fact, it inhabits depths ranging from between 10 – 282 ft (3 – 86 m). Further, muddy sediment and sand are its favorite regions.
The cuttlefish remains primarily active during the daytime when it hunts its prey, principally small crustaceans, and fish. Certainly, its color patterns provide excellent camouflage within its choice of habitats.
Hawaiian Bobtail Squid
Hawaiian Bobtail Squid Facts
- You cannot take the beautiful Hawaiian Bobtail Squid for granted just because it isn’t large. This holds true due to the remarkable secret that its tiny body contains.
- The most noteworthy fact about this incredible ocean creature remains its symbiotic relationship with a species of bioluminescent bacteria, which actually lives within part of its body.
- Furthermore, this gorgeous little cephalopod actually holds a closer relationship to cuttlefish, than to other squids. Just like cuttlefish, it can swim either by using the fins on its mantle or via water-jet propulsion.
- Though this amazing creature has a rather restricted habitat range, it does not currently appear on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Its numbers appear to be stable for the moment.
Hawaiian Bobtail Squid Physical Description
No observer would consider the most noteworthy aspect of the Hawaiian Bobtail Squid to be its size. A typical mantle length remains less than 1.2 in (3 cm), and total body length rarely exceeds 2.5 in (6.3 cm). In fact, adult individuals average weighing less than 0.1 oz (2.7 g).
It possesses eight arms with suckers, and two tentacles, which they usually use to grasp their prey.
Yet the most amazing fact about this species remains its symbiotic relationship with bioluminescent bacteria. The octopus must selectively acquire the symbiotic bacteria after birth and typically do so within the first 24 hours. These inhabit a special organ in its body, and the squid then uses them (at will) to effect a light-based camouflage.
Species: E. scolopes
Hawaiian Bobtail Squid Habitat, and Ecology
The fascinating and beautiful Hawaiian Bobtail Squid has a restricted habitat range. It only inhabits a specific portion of the central Pacific Ocean. This species principally occurs in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands, hence the common name. It appears in limited numbers around Midway Island, as well.
Further, this tiny cephalopod only inhabits shallow coastal waters.
The animal primarily preys upon small shrimp and similar crustaceans.
Individuals generally remain hidden by day, and move about at night, when the camouflage is most effective. It possesses a short lifespan, usually of less than one year.
10 Dazzling Denizens of the Depths
We certainly hope that you enjoyed reading this article on 10 Dazzling Denizens of the Depths as much as we enjoyed creating it. Our beautiful world harbors countless millions of species, many of them in our seas and oceans. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Some may mesmerize you with their beauty, while others may fill you with terror.
Yet all have one thing in common. Nature evolved them to serve a purpose…to fill a niche in the ecosystems of the world. With each species that goes extinct through the actions of mankind, our ecosystems suffer a terrible loss, which Nature is hard pressed to balance. Please, join us and others in doing all that we can to preserve and protect the precious species of our world, including those that inhabit the seas and oceans.
Please check out some of our other articles on more incredible sea and ocean creatures.