The ocean is a vast and mysterious place. In fact, experts estimate that we have only explored 5% of the sea’s depths! The deep-sea creatures living in these unexplored waters are some of the most fascinating animals on Earth. They live in an environment completely unlike their land-dwelling relatives, so it should come as no surprise that they look like something out of a sci-fi movie or video game: think giant squids and alien octopi! Here are some of the coolest deep sea creatures you may not know about—and one bonus creature you definitely won’t believe exists.
A viperfish is a fish from the family Chauliodontidae, so-called because of its large fang-like teeth and menacing appearance. These fish live on the ocean floor as deep as 3,000 feet below sea level! Viperfish grow to about 1–2 meters in length. They have a large mouth and round, bulging eyes. Viperfish have an average lifespan of 30 years and can be found in deep ocean waters throughout the world. Viperfish are carnivorous predators. They eat other fish, shrimps, crabs, and mollusks. These fish use their large teeth to catch their prey before swallowing it whole—they can even swallow prey larger than themselves thanks to their elastic stomachs!
The giant squid is a deep-sea creature that lives in the ocean’s “twilight zone,” about 660 to 3,300 feet below sea level! It is very difficult to observe a few people who have witnessed one alive. Giant squid grows up to 45 feet long and usually live at depths between 1,300 and 3,300 feet. They have a huge heads with eyes the size of soccer balls. The giant squid is one of the world’s largest invertebrates! They are carnivores, feeding on fish, prawns, and other squid. Giant squids have long tentacles with two rows of suction cups lined with sharp-looking hooks that help them capture their prey.
An octopus is any species in the order Octopoda—there are around 300 different species! As you likely know, octopuses are cephalopods with eight tentacles. You can tell an octopus apart from a squid because it has suction cups on its tentacles and eight arms (never 10 like a squid!). They also have one big “beak” and three hearts. Octopuses live in the ocean’s deepest trenches at depths of 12,000 feet. They are known for being very intelligent—scientists have even trained some to open jars! These octopuses can grow up to 16 feet in length, depending on their species. Some types of octopuses have a life span of only one year, while others live up to five years.
Isopods are crustaceans most commonly referred to as “roly-polies” or pill bugs. Their cousins, the terrestrial woodlice, live on land. Giant isopods, however, are marine bottom-dwellers. They are up to 2 feet long and have a large head, eyes, broad thorax, and broad abdomen with many overlapping segments. Their legs are not well developed so they can’t walk well—they just scoot themselves along the ocean floor using their many limbs. Giant isopods eat dead animals and their own molted exoskeletons. These crustaceans live in deep-sea water at around 3300 feet. They grow slowly: giant isopods reach sexual maturity around age 10 and only live up to 4 years!
Giant Tube Worms
Tube worms live in the ocean and can survive at depths of up to 20,000 feet! They can be found on seamounts and hydrothermal vents—their favorite places to live. These animals have a tubular body with a large mouth and a U-shaped digestive tract. Giant tube worms can grow up to 8 feet long and weigh as much as 44 pounds! They often have many symbiotic bacteria as well as red plumes. Tube worms can live up to 10 years. They eat algae, plankton, and other small crustaceans. Tube worms have a unique defense mechanism: they can actually squirt a tar-like secretion to escape from predators.
Batfish are similar to anglerfish in that they both have a special adaptation. Batfish has an elongated dorsal fin that acts as a fishing rod with a lure on the end! This makes them look like flowers, enticing prey to swim towards them. They live near the ocean floor as deep as 2,000 feet. At this depth, there is no sunlight so the only way they can get any food is to lure them in. As you might expect from their name, batfish have large lips and a flat body—they often swim vertically and stay still so their fins look like leaves! Batfish can grow up to 20 inches long.
Giant Spider Crab
Giant spider crabs are the largest arthropod in the world! They live in deep water (4,000 feet) and gather together by the thousands to mate. A male spider crab can grow up to 12 feet across and weigh more than 41 pounds while a female can be 10 feet wide and weigh over 88 pounds! The giant spider crab is one of the longest-living animals in the world—it can live up to 100 years. They eat mollusks, dead fish, and sometimes each other. Giant spider crabs can move surprisingly fast and they have unique claws that help them eat.
A coffin fish doesn’t look much like its namesake—it isn’t a fish! Coffinfish are actually cephalopods in the order Octopoda. While they don’t have fins or gills, they do have eight arms that help them swim around. They also have two tentacles for grasping prey and pincers to help them with eating. Coffinfish live near soft corals and sponges off the coasts of Australia and southern New Zealand where they can be found as deep as 2,500 feet below sea level! These animals are born male and then change into females after 6 months. They can live for up to 6 years.
A blobfish is only found off the coasts of continental shelves in New Zealand and Australia. It is most commonly seen at depths of 12,000 feet! These fish are known for their extremely soft bodies. Their jelly-like substance allows them to float around without any bones or muscles. They sort of look like a deflated balloon knot on its side—most of them look pretty much the same. Blobfish don’t have many predators—their only real threat is the human species. They are considered a delicacy in New Zealand and Australia, but it takes three of them to make one serving!
The clown frogfish is known for its unique shape and color. This fish has a large head and mouth that can go from flat to round at the sight of prey. Its fins are extremely elongated and orange in color with bones inside them to help it stand upright! The clown frogfish lives in crevices off the coasts of Australia and southern New Zealand, as well as the waters of Indonesia, Japan, and Korea. These frogfish can live as deep as 2,000 feet below sea level. They eat small fish and crustaceans. Often, clown frogfish get parasites from eating ghost shrimp.
In conclusion, there are some pretty cool ocean creatures out there! From the giant spider crab to the coffin fish, each animal has something unique about it that makes it stand out. These animals can be found all over the world and in various depths of water. They each have their own unique adaptations and lifestyles to help them survive.