//
you're reading...

Biology

Marine Halloween: Creepiest Looking Critters

#5 – The Barreleye fish

Fig 2: The barreleye fish, or as I like to call him, the marine equivalent of Eeyore. (Source: Rate Every Animal)

Fig 1: The barreleye fish, or as I like to call him, the marine equivalent of Eeyore. (Source: Rate Every Animal)

 

I mean, come on, *look* at that face!  That is one sad fish, with the mopey eyes and the downturned lips.  I feel like if the Nightmare Before Christmas included a fish species, it would be the barreleye.  In addition to looking super unhappy, the barreleye also has this oddly translucent head, because its eyes are uniquely adapted to looking upwards. These animals live just below the limit of light penetration and use those extremely sensitive, tubular eyes to survey the waters above for small, delicious zooplankton.   That being said – they can also rotate their eyes in order to look straight ahead. While the barreleye looks horribly creepy, it’s generally pretty harmless to anything larger than its mouth, including, you know, me.  Which brings me to marine creepy critter #4…

 

#4 – Giant Isopods

Fig 1: A giant isopod in its natural habitat. (Source: Damien du Tolt)

Fig 2: A giant isopod in its natural habitat. (Source: Damien du Tolt)

 

Sure, these enormous creatures look terrifying.  I mean – that’s a face and a body that only a mother could love.  But these marine giants are relatively peaceful members of the oceanic hierarchy.  Closely related to the common pillbug (or, as I knew them growing up, the roly-poly), these deep sea scavengers can also curl into a tight ball when threatened, exposing only their tough calcium-based exoskeleton. Of course, pillbugs reach a size of about 2 centimeters fully grown.  The largest known giant isopod reached a size of about 36 cm.  That’s a whopping big difference!  These pale, ghostly creatures are typically lilac or light pink in color, and they can be found in the west Atlantic from Georgia to Brazil as well as the Indo-Pacific.  They primarily feed on dead whales, fish, and squid, although they have been known to prey on slow-moving animals such as sea sponges or even live fish.  They have seven pairs of legs, including the first pair which have been modified to help manipulate and bring food to their four sets of jaws – yes, you read that right, FOUR jaws.  That’s an utterly gratuitous number of jaws for a supposedly harmless animal.  I certainly wouldn’t want one of these suckers sneaking up on me while I take a dip!  But compared to our next creepy critter, giant isopods are just a lovely stroll in the park.

 

#3 – Black Dragonfish

10-13-16-3

Fig 3 – Well, I can certainly see where they got the name. Although, in point of fact, dragons actually have four legs and wings…but I digress. (Source: MABRI)

 

The black dragonfish is basically a floating face full of razor-sharp teeth more than capable of shredding an unsuspecting victim to itty-bitty pieces.  Couple that with the spikes on its long, pointy tail, and I for one am voting to stay far, far away from this critter.   They can reach lengths of about 40cm, and hunting females are known to migrate from the inky depths to the moonlit surface each night in order to feed, where their jet black coloring can make them extremely hard to see.  Our next critter also likes to hide, but it accomplishes that in a very different way.  Say hello to…

 

#2 – the Northern Stargazer

10-13-16-4

Fig 4 – This is not a face I’d want to appear underfoot, but that’s exactly the tactic that the northern stargazer takes to startle its prey. (Source: International Business Times, Ashley Raper Starr)

 

These hunters use their fins as shovels, burying their bodies in the sand until only their eyes and mouths remain uncovered.  They wait until prey swim over them, and then rapidly open their jaws, expanding their oral cavity.  This rapid expansion creates a vacuum-like suction that can draw any tasty morsel into their mouths.  They live in the sandy flats of the lower Chesapeake Bay’s deep open waters.  Their range extends as far north as New York – so they are closer than you might think.  And of course, when they close their mouths, they look like corpses, complete with undertaker stiches. Yet, the fish that, hands down, wins my prize for creepiest looking marine critter has to be…

 

#1 – Sarcastic Fringehead

10-13-16-5

Fig 5 – Not going to lie – this one looks like a cross between a rainbow flag and the dinosaurs that attack Wayne Knight in Jurassic Park. (Source: Cyrlaque Lamar)

 

Sarcastic fringeheads get their name from their aggressive temperament and from the distinctive frills just above their eyes.  These ambush predators maintain and viciously defend their shelters from anything that happens by.  They live in all sorts of burrows, including empty clam or snail shells, cracks in rocky outcroppings, or human trash like cans and bottles.  The larger the shelter, the larger the fringehead that occupies it will be.  They can reach up to 30.5 cm in length.   Their needle-sharp teeth can help them trap and eat slippery, mobile prey like smaller fish or crustaceans – or my bare feet.  They have been known to attack divers and can survive as long as six years in the wild.  They live primarily in the San Francisco Bay area, which reinforces my desire to stay firmly outside the Pacific Ocean!

 

While all of these creepy critters look scary, they generally pose no real threat to humans.  That concludes our countdown of the Top Five Creepiest Looking Marine Critters!  Feel free to shout out in the comments if you have a contender for the list that I missed.

 

Sources:

http://www.mbari.org/barreleye-fish-with-tubular-eyes-and-transparent-head/

http://www.aquariumofpacific.org/onlinelearningcenter/species/giant_isopod

http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/teacher_resources/best_place_species/harry_potter_top_10/black_dragonfish.cfm

http://www.chesapeakebay.net/fieldguide/critter/northern_stargazer

http://www.aquariumofpacific.org/onlinelearningcenter/species/sarcastic_fringehead

 

Discussion

2 Responses to “Marine Halloween: Creepiest Looking Critters”

  1. I dunno… isopods? harmless? Have you seen The Bay? (it’s a movie about evil isopods that mutate due to water pollution and attack people… highly recommended this Halloween season).

    Posted by Carrie McDonough | October 25, 2016, 12:38 pm

Post a Comment

Instagram

  • by oceanbites 6 days ago
    Leveling up - did you know that crabs have a larval phase? These are both porcelain crabs, but the one on the right is the earlier stage. It’s massive spine makes it both difficult to eat and quite conspicuous in
  • by oceanbites 2 weeks ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Cierra Braga. Cierra works ultraviolet c (UVC) to discover how this light can be used to combat biofouling, or the growth of living things, on the hulls of ships. Here, you
  • by oceanbites 3 weeks ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Elena Gadoutsis  @haysailor  These photos feature her “favorite marine research so far: From surveying tropical coral reefs, photographing dolphins and whales, and growing my own algae to expose it to different
  • by oceanbites 1 month ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on Oceanbites we are featuring Eliza Oldach. According to Ellie, “I study coastal communities, and try to understand the policies and decisions and interactions and adaptations that communities use to navigate an ever-changing world. Most of
  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Jiwoon Park with a little photographic help from Ryan Tabata at the University of Hawaii. When asked about her research, Jiwoon wrote “Just like we need vitamins and minerals to stay
  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring  @riley_henning  According to Riley, ”I am interested in studying small things that make a big impact in the ocean. Right now for my master's research at the University of San Diego,
  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Gabby Stedman. Gabby is interested in interested in understanding how many species of small-bodied animals there are in the deep-sea and where they live so we can better protect them from
  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Shawn Wang! Shawn is “an oceanographer that studies ocean conditions of the past. I use everything from microfossils to complex computer models to understand how climate has changed in the past
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    Today we are highlighting some of our awesome new authors for  #WriterWednesday  Today we have Daniel Speer! He says, “I am driven to investigate the interface of biology, chemistry, and physics, asking questions about how organisms or biological systems respond
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    Here at Oceanbites we love long-term datasets. So much happens in the ocean that sometimes it can be hard to tell if a trend is a part of a natural cycle or actually an anomaly, but as we gather more
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    Have you ever seen a lobster molt? Because lobsters have exoskeletons, every time they grow they have to climb out of their old shell, leaving them soft and vulnerable for a few days until their new shell hardens. Young, small
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    A lot of zooplankton are translucent, making it much easier to hide from predators. This juvenile mantis shrimp was almost impossible to spot floating in the water, but under a dissecting scope it’s features really come into view. See the
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This is a clump of Dead Man’s Fingers, scientific name Codium fragile. It’s native to the Pacific Ocean and is invasive where I found it on the east coast of the US. It’s a bit velvety, and the coolest thing
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    You’ve probably heard of jellyfish, but have you heard of salps? These gelatinous sea creatures band together to form long chains, but they can also fall apart and will wash up onshore like tiny gemstones that squish. Have you seen
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    Check out what’s happening on a cool summer research cruise! On the  #neslter  summer transect cruise, we deployed a tow sled called the In Situ Icthyoplankton Imaging System. This can take pictures of gelatinous zooplankton (like jellyfish) that would be
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    Did you know horseshoe crabs have more than just two eyes? In these juveniles you can see another set in the middle of the shell. Check out our website to learn about some awesome horseshoe crab research.  #oceanbites   #plankton   #horseshoecrabs 
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    Feeling a bit flattened by the week? So are these summer flounder larvae. Fun fact: flounder larvae start out with their eyes set like normal fish, but as they grow one of their eyes migrates to meet the other and
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    Have you seen a remote working setup like this? This is a photo from one of our Oceanbites team members Anne Hartwell. “A view from inside the control can of an underwater robot we used to explore the deep parts
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    Today is the day of  #shutdownacademia  and  #shutdownstem  and many of us at the Oceanbites team are taking the day to plan solid actions for how we can make our organization and the institutions we work at a better place
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    Black lives matter. The recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd have once again brought to light the racism in our country. All of us at Oceanbites stand with our Black colleagues, friends, readers, and family. The
WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com