There is no better place to go if you’re seeking for weird creatures that defy explanation than the deep sea.
This year was no different in terms of footage of odd new species hidden in the depths, as researchers captured stunning images of alien-looking creatures. Here’s a list of the weirdest deep-sea creatures discovered in the year 2022.
Peacock Mantis Shrimp
The peacock mantis shrimp is a candy-colored crustacean that uses its front two appendages to “punch” prey in the Indian and tropical western Pacific oceans.
This shrimp’s punch is one of the quickest in the animal kingdom, according to Oceana, an international ocean conservation organization. It is powerful enough to shatter an aquarium’s glass wall. However, don’t worry: They mainly just smash open mollusks and decapitate crabs with their steel fists.
The frilled shark
The frilled shark is a “living fossil” — an living creature with a grisly look that has not changed much throughout the ages. Creatures with few or no surviving relatives are also referred to as having few or no close relatives.
The way this prehistoric-looking predator reproduces is what makes it so unique. It is found only in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Embryos are fed via a placenta in other animal species.
Mothers only give birth once their offspring are capable of surviving on their own, and frilled shark embryos obtain energy from yolk sacs.
Frilled sharks, which grow to be around 7 feet long, eat squid the majority of the time. Fish, as well as other sharks, have been known to be consumed by them.
The discovery of a brand-new and unnamed species of blood-red jellyfish was announced in August by researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). According to the investigators, the dark red jelly belongs to the Poralia genus.
On July 28, at a depth of roughly 2,300 feet (700 meters) near the shore of Newport, Rhode Island, they first discovered the new jelly using an remotely operated vehicle (ROV).
Other organisms were observed on the dive, such as other cnidarians (jellyfish and corals), ctenophores (comb jellies), crustaceans, and Actinopterygii (ray-finned fish).
Right here on Earth, 200 meters separates you from an alien planet. Travel deep into the ocean, and you’ll reach a dark zone known as the “twilight zone,” where creatures play a deadly game of hide-and-seek with predators in the shadows.
The ‘midnight zone,’ at a depth of 1,000 meters or more, is a huge darkness broken up by bursts of light from living creatures that hunt for food and breed here.
It’s a place with fangtooth fish-style teeth, which are terrifying. Nevertheless, fear not: the fangtooth is about the size of a grapefruit.
Pink See-Through Fantasia
The pink translucent fantasy is a sea cucumber discovered about 1.5 miles down in the Celebes Sea in the western Pacific, east of Borneo, and its name gives it the appearance of a piece of sexy underwear.
The strange sea cucumber has a survival mechanism that points to its long development: bioluminescence, which was only found about a decade ago in 2007. The transparent skin of the pink see-through fantasia allows its mouth, anus, and intestines to all be seen.
Hagfish come in 76 different species, and some may be found as deep as 5,500 feet under the water’s surface. Because of the goop their bodies produce to ward off predators, they’re also known as slime eels.
Hagfish species range in size from 16 to 40 inches long, according to scientists. They may survive at depths of 5,600 feet under the sea’s surface.
Elusive glass octopus
In August, video of an elusive glass octopus (Vitreledonella richardi) was published off the coast of the remote Phoenix Islands, an archipelago located more than 3,200 miles (5,100 kilometers) northeast of Sydney, Australia. The Schmidt Ocean Institute (SOI) researchers published this footage.
The Central Pacific Ocean expedition aboard the SOI’s research vessel Falkor uncovered the translucent cephalopod for the first time.
The ROV SuBastian, which spent 182 hours scanning the seafloor throughout the expedition, was used by onboard scientists to spot the creature.
Glass octopuses are virtually totally transparent, with just their cylindrical eyes, optic nerve, and digestive system appearing opaque, similar to other “glass” creatures like glass frogs and certain comb jellies.
The deep ocean’s ‘inner space,’ where it is referred to as zooplankton from the Greek meaning ‘animal drifters,’ is home to a wide range of different creatures. The ‘seed shrimp,’ (1) wed up in its orange carapace, and the snail known as the “sea butterfly,” (2) for example, spend their whole lives as drifters.
The larval stages of sea stars (3), for example, are only temporary members of the zooplankton and will sink back down to continue their lives on the seafloor.
If they aren’t devoured by other zooplankton on the journey, spending time as nomads allows them to be transported by ocean currents.
The ribbon eel (sometimes known as the leaf-nosed moray eel) may be found in Indonesian seas from East Africa to southern Japan, Australia, and French Polynesia, usually coiled inside burrows around coral reefs.
The juveniles have a pale yellow line along the fins when they are young, and as they mature, the colors change to brilliant blue and yellow.
These eels are called “protrandic hermaphrodites” because they go from male to female identity multiple times throughout their lives.
The Atlantic wolffish
This animal is a predatory species that eats tough-bodied or spiky invertebrates like sea urchins and huge marine snails, and it will not attack humans unless provoked.
In the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, you may find the Atlantic wolffish, which can reach lengths of up to five feet. It dwells at depths of 328 feet to 1,640 feet, preferring colder water.
This fish is also called a wolf eel because of its long, eel-like body.
In August, the MBARI released video depicting a brilliant orange female whalefish (order Cetomimiformes) at 6,600 feet (2,013 meters) deep off the coast of Monterey Bay, California.
Because of the three drastically different appearances of the juveniles (tapetails), males (bignoses), and females (whalefish), very little is known about this bizarre fish. Scientists originally thought the three forms were three different species because they looked so different.
One of the most extreme among any vertebrates is thought to be the shape-shifting transformation from juvenile to mature females.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute said that Whalefish have seldom been seen alive in the deep, which leaves many unanswered questions.
Early stages in the life cycles of marine creatures are often quite distinct from their adult state. The body of this leaf-like leptocephalus larva changes as it becomes an adult eel.
As a larva grows in the zooplankton, having a thin, transparent body may help it survive the gauntlet of predators.
Larval stages were frequently described as distinct species from the adults until marine biologists realized they were part of one life cycle. Because larvae and adults look so different, larval stages were often classed as such.
Christmas Tree Worm
The Christmas tree worm was discovered by scientists near the Great Barrier Reef’s Lizard Island and named after a strange creature.
While the worm resides in a tube, the spiral “branches” are really the worm’s breathing and feeding organs.
The radioles, which are hair-like appendages, cover the tree-like crowns. While they may be retracted if the Christmas tree worm feels threatened, they are utilized for breathing while capturing prey.
The goblin shark
The snouts of goblin sharks, a uncommon subterranean species with an elongated and flattened shape, may be used to identify them.
These terrifying monsters capture the attention of 50-toothed mouths.
Surprisingly, adult female goblin sharks are bigger than adult male goblin sharks. Males can reach an average length of 8.66 inches, while females may reach a maximum of 11 inches.
The researchers identified a novel variety of Dumbo octopus (Grimpteuthis imperator) dubbed “Emperor Dumbo” in May.
On a trip to the Aleutian Islands in the Bering Sea on the German research vessel Sonne in 2016, researchers discovered the charming creature when they inadvertently dragged it to the surface in a net.
The umbrella-like webbing connecting the tentacles and cartoonishly elephant ear-like fins that look like Disney’s iconic elephant’s massive ears are indicators of Dumbo octopus species.
“Because we weren’t really looking for it,” Alexander Ziegler, a researcher at Friedrich Wilhelm University in Bonn, Germany, and the research vessel’s chief scientist, told Live Science. In addition, the whole animal surfaced intact.”
Sea sapphire copepods
Deep-sea fish such as the thread-tail and stoplight loosejaw frequently eat copepods, which are small crustaceans that range in size from a millimetre to two millimetres. The faeces and dead bodies of most copepods help to carry carbon down into the depths, where they graze on microscopic algae that thrives near the sea surface.
The females of these colorful copepods live as parasites inside floating jelly creatures named salps, while the males swim freely in the sea. The males have a lustrous look due to their tiny crystal plates on their skin that reflect blue light.
The box crab, like so many other marine species, is a master of disguise. The crustacean buries itself under the sand with just its eyes protruding from the mucky depths in this situation, which is most commonly seen on the seabed.
The mating habits of the box crab, which literally redefine what it means to be swept off your feet, are one of the most fascinating aspects of its life cycle. The male box crab grabs the female box crab with his claws and takes her around the sea floor, allowing her to molt her shell, when they have found their partner.
The Japanese spider crab
The Japanese spider crab, which can grow up to 15 inches wide and weigh up to 44 pounds, is native to the Pacific Ocean. Arthropods, which includes lobsters, spiders, and insects, are one of the largest known arthropods.
Real-life SpongeBob and Patrick
On the seafloor, NOAA published a hilarious photograph of SpongeBob Squarepants and Patrick Star in August, side-by-side.
During an expedition of the Retriever Seamount off the coast of New England on July 27, an ROV captured the image of a square(ish) yellow sponge and a five-pointed pink sea star at a depth of 6,184 feet (1,885 m).
Christopher Mah, a marine biologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, who first made the comparison on Twitter, told Live Science that the sponge is in the genus Hertwigia and the sea star is in the genus Chondraster. They might be brand new to science, he suggested, and the precise species is unknown.
Dragonfish & Hatchetfish
Some deep-sea creatures, like those found under water fireflies, may emit spots of light or flashes known as bioluminescence.
Since many species in this zone are speckled with lights for concealment, the remnants of sunlight cast shadows that reveal predators to prey.
Bioluminescent organs on the hatchetfish’s underside, for example, break up its silhouette by matching the dim light coming from above.
Bioluminescent searchlights are used by animals like the dragonfish in the midnight zone to locate their prey. Creatures use lights to attract a mate throughout the deep ocean, for example, by signaling with them to other members of the same species.
The squidworm was found in 2007 by researchers aboard the Census of Marine Zooplankton, while operating a remotely controlled vehicle some 1.8 miles underwater.
The ten appendages protruding from the head of the funky-looking fish, which resemble tentacles, are called “tentacles.” These are used by the squidworm to gather “marine snow,” which comes from the open seas above.
The vampire squid’s
This cephalopod’s Latin name is even more ominous than the English name: it is neither a squid nor an octopus. Vampyroteuthis infernalis is a scientific name that means “vampire squid from hell.”
The vampire squid, on the other hand, is less ferocious than its name implies (it may be found in the mesopelagic zone’s inky depths, around 3,300 feet below the surface). It doesn’t feed on blood, unlike its name. Instead, like dead leaves that litter forests, this creature survives on “marine snow,” decaying organic matter that falls to the ocean floor.
Alien-like spindly squid
Mike Vecchione, a research zoologist with the NOAA Fisheries National Systematics Laboratory, says in the NOAA video footage that “all of their arms and tentacles have this long, spaghetti-like extension.” The ghostly squid has a really unusual body plan with enormous iridescent fins and weird elbow-like bends in its tentacles.
For a squid, it’s extremely difficult to tell the arms from the tentacles.
Since its discovery in 1998, there have only been a little more than 20 verified sightings of this deep-sea cephalopod.
One of the deepest predators is the stoplight loosejaw fish. It has an open framework of bone with no soft floor beneath it, which allows it to snap shut like a mousetrap.
The bioluminescent organs around its eyes produce red light, which is why it’s called “stoplight.”
Since blue light travels well through water and many deep-sea creatures’ eyes are not sensitive to red light, most bioluminescence in the deep ocean is blue. The stoplight loosejaw, on the other hand, can detect crimson and use it to illuminate its victim without warning them.
These guys may grow to be huge; in 2010, a remotely operated underwater vehicle discovered a colossal isopod measuring 2.5 feet among the chilly, deep waters. These crustaceans are carnivores that feed on corpse matter that falls from the ocean’s surface. They look a bit like a huge woodworm.
Despite the fact that they were discovered in 1879, little is known about them. Giant isopods, on the other hand, are thought to reach such a colossal size in order to cope with the pressure at sea level.
The bioluminescent growth on the head of the anglerfish, possibly one of the world’s ugliest creatures, is most noted for drawing prey to its death in the lightless depths of the sea.
Yet, anglerfish come in over 200 species, divided into four categories: goosefish, batfish, frogfish, and deep-sea angler.
The bioluminescent angling organ is only seen in females. The majority of them reside close to the earth’s surface, sometimes as much as a mile deep, in the Atlantic and Antarctic Oceans.
Giant phantom jellyfish
Rare video footage of a giant phantom jellyfish (Stygiomedusa gigantea) was published by MBARI in November. The massive jelly, with its 3.3-foot-wide (1 m) bell and 33-foot-long (10 m) ribbonlike arms, was spotted by scientists operating an ROV at a depth of 3,200 feet (975 m) in Monterey Bay, California.
Phantom jellyfish are relatively little understood, but researchers believe it uses its arms, which swing like loose scarves in its wake, to capture unwary prey and pull them up to its mouth.
With occasional pulses from its faintly glowing bell, the creature also propels itself through the pitch-black depths.
In 1899, the first specimen of the enormous phantom jelly was taken. Since then, MBARI claims that scientists have only seen this creature about 100 times.
The jelly has been discovered in the depths of every major ocean around the globe, with the exception of the Arctic Ocean, despite its rarity.
The glass squid gets its name from their transparent bodies, which is a clever way to avoid casting a shadow that may be seen by predators in the twilight zone. There are around 60 species of glass squid in the ocean.
The juvenile of a lyre cranch squid can be found in the top image. Eyes on long stalks protrude from the two appendages poking out from it. Each eye has a bioluminescent organ to mask its shadow because those eyes are more opaque than the rest of its body.
Those stalks will vanish as the juvenile develops into an adult, and it will descend to the midnight zone to live.
The nudibranch is a highly adaptable kind of sea slug with over 3,000 different species documented. From the North and South poles to the tropics, these little guys can be found almost anywhere in shallow and deep waters.
Dorid nudibranchs, which have smooth gills on their backs to assist them breathe, and aeolid nudibranchs, who breathe via a different kind of organ called cerata, are the two different kinds.
The little nudibranch instead wards off predators with brilliant camouflage, which is intended as a danger signal. The capacity to literally swallow, digest, and reutilize stinging cells from prey is perhaps their most extreme adaptation of all.