Top 10 Creepy Critters of The Deep
Boo! Sorry did we scare you? No? Well if you encounter any of the creatures on this list your heart might skip a beat. We’ve compiled a spooky list of all the creepy critters you can find in our oceans. Some of them might make you think twice before diving into the water again. “Goblin Sharks, Vampire Squids, and Zombie Worms, OH MY!” Let’s dive in!
With flesh piercing, fang-like teeth extending to attack prey at depths of up to 4,000 ft deep, the Goblin Shark is a creepy critter for sure. Growing up to 18 ft long, these sluggish sharks have a unique way of hunting prey. Due to their lack of speed, they will slowly cruise around the ocean floor using their long snout to detect prey. The pores of their snout are packed with ampullae of lorenzini which can be used to detect the heartbeat of their prey when nearby. Their one of a kind extending jaws will then shoot out at over 10 ft per second capturing its prey before swallowing it whole. Researchers have studied over 120 stomach stomachs, and have found that goblin sharks typically prey on bony fish, squid, and crustaceans such as isopods (see next).
Goblin Sharks are a pinkish, purple/gray color and typically found anywhere between 400 and 4,000 ft deep. They are most common off the coast of Japan and New Zealand, but have been found all around the world. Even in our local waters here in Key West. As one of the rarest sharks in the world, it is likely you will never encounter one. Although, some juveniles can be observed near the surface. It is not known how long they live or when they reproduce for certain.
Remember the Kaiju Skinmites in the movie “Pacific Rim”? Those scary creatures were modeled after this creepy looking isopod. Related to the small pillbugs that you can find in your home garden, these Giant Isopods are found on the muddy bottoms of the ocean floor 550 to 7,000 ft deep. They are truly giant though! At around a foot long, these isopods are a little different than your garden bugs. An amazing example of deep-sea gigantism, they have very few predators allowing them to grow large and adapt to the extreme pressures of the deep.
Giant Isopods are important scavengers. They will feast on the decaying dead fish and even whole whale carcasses that fall to the ocean floor. However, food is scarce at the bottom of the ocean. These isopods may have to wait a long time for their next meal and so they have developed extremely slow metabolisms. A giant isopod in captivity reportedly survived over 5 years without eating.
These 14 legged alien-looking creatures have two sets of antennae that help them search for dead organisms in the darkness thousands of feet below the surface. The Giant Isopod is actually one of 10,000 isopod species, and they are believed to be found worldwide. In Northern Taiwan, you can actually find them on the menu along with some rice. They are said to taste like lobster. Mmmm…
Vampire Squid From Hell
“I want to suck your blood” says the Vampire Squid in a Count Dracula accent. Well, not really. The Vampire Squid lives 2,000 to 4,000 ft deep in the oxygen minimum zone, where the oxygen saturation is as low as 3%. The Vampires Squid can survive down here thanks to its copper based blue blood that binds oxygen very well. Alien? I think yes! It has adapted to its environment extremely well. It is neutrally buoyant with a low metabolic rate, so it does not have to eat much or expend a lot of energy. This squid, which is really a cephalopod, is an ancient living fossil with few predators due to the lack of life in the darkness in the deep. They use two long retractable filaments to feed on marine snow which includes decaying fish, plankton, poop, etc. You know, the finest cuisine.
The Vampire Squid has large red/blue eyes and only grows to about a foot long with its entire body covered in light producing organs called photophores. The ends of their arms can produce bioluminescent clouds of a sticky glowing mucus to help them escape from predators. Their arms are also regenerative so if bitten off, they can be used as a diversion allowing the squid to escape while the predator is distracted. Vampire Squids don’t produce ink, so when they are threatened they will turn themselves inside out and hide under their dark cloaklike webbing in a position called “pineapple posture”.
Deep Sea Anglerfish
The Deep Sea Angler Fish commonly known as the Black Seadevil is a rare sight with fewer than a dozen caught on film alive and in their natural environment by deep diving research vehicles. Deep Sea Anglerfish are ambush predators and will use their bioluminescent fishing pole called an illium to lure prey such as worms and shrimp into reach of their large jaws. Their jaws are equipped with super sharp teeth angled inward and can extend to catch their prey up to twice their size. Anglerfish have small eyes because they rely more on the movement of their environment in the deep ocean. These fish live over a mile deep in the midnight zone of the ocean where there is no light.
However, what is truly creepy and bizarre about Anglerfish is their mating ritual. The males sole responsibility in life is to find a female as soon as possible and mate with her. The males don’t even have a fishing pole to hunt. Males will bite into a female and fuse into their stomachs. This provides the male nutrients and the female with the ability to use the males gonads whenever she is ready. Males are tiny in comparison to females and are many times mistaken for parasites on dead females recovered from the sea. Some males are smaller than 5 inches compared to much larger females growing up to 40 inches and weighing 110 lbs.
Zombies don’t just come after your brains, they also enjoy feasting on giant whale carcasses at the bottom of the ocean. Well, Zombie Worms do at least. Zombie Worms, or Osedax Worms thrive on whale carcasses that have fallen to the seafloor to be devoured by scavengers. Osedax means “bone devourer”. Pretty spooky! But what is most interesting about these Zombie Worms is that they don’t even have a mouth or stomach. Instead, they secrete an acid to dissolve their way into the bone. Once they reach inside the bone, a bacteria that has a symbiotic relationship with the worm consumes the bone’s fat and protein. The worm then eats the waste products of the bacteria to get its nutrients.
A Zombie Worm's life begins as an egg, and then develops into a larva. The larvae can then land on a whale bone and become a female, or land on a female and become a male. Female Zombie Worms reach about 2 inches in length, while males reach less than a millimeter. The males are microscopic and live inside the females by the hundreds. These females can produce hundreds of eggs daily allowing for the organisms to spread quickly. You can find these worms in as little as 30 ft of water, all the way down to 14,000 ft deep!
Spooky, Scary, Skeleton Shrimp send shivers down your spine! The Skeleton Shrimp is actually not a shrimp at all. It is an amphipod. Skeleton Shrimp have 18 limbs with a variety of different functions. They have 3 pairs of limbs for grasping, 2 pairs of arms, 2 pairs of antennae, 2 lung appendages, and 2 sets of claws. Their comparatively colossal claws are called gnathopods and are used to veer off predators, as well as fight other males. Some species of Skeleton Shrimp are equipped with venom in their claws that are used by females to kill males after mating with them. They must molt as they grow and during this time, the females have the ability to reproduce. Female Skeleton Shrimp can have up to 40 young in one batch of eggs. Each of these babies will cling onto their mother for a week, before being placed in another location where they can begin to grow.
Skeleton Shrimp grow to about an inch long with transparent bodies. Some species will change color to blend into their surroundings. They are known to cling on to divers' wetsuits, so look out for Skeleton Shrimp in your closet! And when they crawl, they crawl like inchworms due to their poor swimming ability. They truly have an alien appearance and seem almost out of this world.
Glowing Sucker Octopus
Glow in the dark aliens? I think yes! The Glowing Sucker Octopus lives 1,600 to 13,000 ft below the surface in cold dark waters. One of only two genera of octopus that are bioluminescent, these octopus are definitely unique! Each of their 8 arms has 40 suckers equipped with photophores that emit a blue-green light. The octopus can use this light to startle approaching predators or lure in potential prey.
Glowing Sucker Octopus grow up to about 18 inches long with a pair of fins attached to their internal shell. The internal shell is the only hard part of their body other than its beak so it can fit into tiny holes and crevices. A creepy fact about these octopus is that they are translucent meaning you can see their internal organs through their skin.
Halloween isn’t complete without a creepy spider patrolling the neighborhood. The Sea Spider can reach a size of up to 20 inches! That’s bigger than some of the largest spiders on land. However, the Sea Spider is actually not a spider. It is part of a group called arthropods called pycnogonids. This means they molt as they grow larger. Large Sea Spiders live in depths of down to 13,000 ft, but smaller ones can be found in shallow water during your dives. They can walk or swim using their 8-12 legs.
You may notice that they really are all legs and little to no body. Because of this, their legs will actually carry some of their vital organs such as their digestive tract. Sea Spiders primarily feed on anemones and other soft bodied organisms. They insert their proboscis into their prey, and then suck out their insides like a chunky smoothie. Gross! They have a slow metabolism, so they don’t have to feed too often.
There are over 1,300 different species of Sea Spiders that can be found in every ocean around the world. The larger ones are found in colder waters near the poles as well as South Africa and South America.
Lamprey “Vampire Fish”
These Lamprey, known as Vampire Fish slurp the life out of their victims like parasites with their tooth ringed mouths. Adult Lamprey have around 150 cone shaped teeth in their mouth to help them latch on so that their tongue can bore into the fish's skin through a process called rasping. They then proceed to suck blood and other fluids from the fish they’ve attached to. Lamprey actually don’t have jaws or a bony skeleton at all in fact. Their skeleton is made of cartilage similar to a shark's skeleton.
These creepy vampire fish begin life as larvae burrowing into freshwater silt, and then feeding on algae. For the next 4 years, they are basically filter feeders. They then transform into carnivorous adults and move out to the sea. These adults have 7 tiny gills and can grow up to 40 inches. When feeding they prefer to attach closest to the heart of the fish, but in the ocean they typically do not kill the fish. They will continue to slowly feed off of them. However, the ones found in freshwater such as the great lakes will kill 40-60% of their victims. Whether from the initial attack, or infection later on. Lamprey can be found all round the world and are native to the east coast of the United States including Florida. But fear not, they are unlikely to prey on humans. They are actually considered a local delicacy in Latvia.
Have you ever seen a UFO? We have! Well… Sort of. The Atolla Jellyfish looks very similar to a UFO in its body shape. It also glows with bioluminescence. These jellyfish live in the midnight zone 3,000 to 13,000 ft deep. They appear red, but because light does not reach these depths, they are virtually invisible. If attacked by a predator, they will emit a glowing blue light to either scare off their predator, or lure in other predators to go after the predator attacking them. This gives the jellyfish the ability to escape unharmed.
Atolla Jellyfish only grow to about 8 inches across with 20 tentacles. They also have one very long, retractable tentacle that can be used in feeding as well as reproduction. These Jellyfish can reproduce asexually like other jellyfish, but also sexually. They do not have any digestive system, respiratory system, circulatory system, or central nervous system meaning they have no brain. This creature really is out of this world and a great way to end our list!
Thanks for reading our Top 10 Creepy Critters of The Deep blog! Diving isn’t scary. Whether you are looking to get into diving, or an advanced level diver, stop by one of our 4 dive shops in Florida for everything you need. Our experts have been diving for decades and are happy to get you started, or take your diving to the next level! With that being said, Happy Halloween from Divers Direct!
Written by: Steven Fandl