Sea Stoke embraces the unique and unknown, so we thought we’d shed some light on these elusive and relatively unknown creatures that live in some of the most inhospitable habitats. It’s pretty fascinating to think that very little is known about these underdogs, which begs the question—what other creatures might exist that we have no idea about?
WORDS BY Leticia Ngyuen ILLUSTRATIONS BY Ben Ross
Intro: The giant isopod resembles a garden slater on ‘roids and while it’s hard to decide on which deep sea creature is the freakiest, the isopod is definitely in the top 5. Growing up to lengths of over 16 inches, the giant isopod is one of the largest members of the crustacean family. It is a carnivorous crustacean that spends its time scavenging the deep sea floor, consuming debris that makes it way down, such as the bodies of dead whales, fish and squid. The giant isopod has a complex mouth with many components that work together to pierce, shred, and disembowel their prey. They are considered a delicacy in northern Taiwan where you may find them in a restaurant, boiled and served with rice. Creepy Cred: The enormous size of the giant isopod is a result of a phenomenon known as deep-sea gigantism. This is the tendency of deep-sea crustaceans and other animals to grow to a much larger size than similar species in shallower waters. Other examples of this would be the giant squid and the giant tubeworm. The reason for these size differences remains a mystery, although some researchers believe it may be an adaptation to help the animal deal with the enormous pressures at the deep sea level (physical, not emotional). Depths: 500-7000 feet Trivia: The isopod can go for long periods of time without eating and has been known to survive over eight weeks without food when kept in captivity.
Intro: One of the best known and bizarre-looking fish in the deep, the anglerfish lends its name from its elongated dorsal spine that supports a light-producing organ known as a photophore, which lights up like the tip of E.T.’s index finger. It uses this appendage like a fishing lure and attracts its prey by waving it back and forth. Although these guys generally only grow to maximum lengths of about 8 inches, the anglerfish can extend both its jaw and stomach to an incredible size, which allows it to engulf prey twice the size of its entire body. This special adaptation allows use its own stomach to serve as an internal bain marie, where it can store food supplies for later consumption. Deep-sea anglerfish are considered a delicacy in many countries, such as Korea and Japan and has a mild, sweet flavour that is similar to lobster. Creepy Cred: If its light-producing features weren’t impressive enough, the male anglerfish has a rather unusual method of survival. When a male angler matures, its digestive system degenerates, making it impossible for it to feed on its own. To avoid starvation, the male latches onto a female where it attaches itself with its hook teeth. Once he bites into her skin, he releases an enzyme that dissolves the skin of his mouth and the female’s body. They become fused together, with their blood vessels joined as one and the male will spend the rest of its life as a parasite, getting all of her nourishment from her body. Depths: Over 3000 feet Trivia: A female angler can carry up to six males on her at any one time. While this is a blatant invasion of space, it’s handy for when she is ready to spawn and has a mate readily available.
Intro: Ol’ fangtooth is a menacing looking creature that looks like it could have swam straight out of a horror movie. It gets its name from its impressive looking teeth, which are actually the largest teeth of any fish in the ocean when taken in proportion to body size. Although the fangtooth looks like a true monster, it’s actually a small fish, reaching a maximum length of only six inches. Similar to most deep-sea dwelling creatures, the fang tooth has poor eyesight and to compensate for this, it has developed a particularly prominent lateral line, which helps it to sense movement and vibration from the surrounding water. It\’s also believed that the fangtooth hunts by a process known as chemoreception, where it depends primarily on its senses of taste and smell in order to respond to chemical stimuli in the environment. In other words, it essentially has to bump into something edible, as it searches the dark waters. Creepy Cred: Undoubtedly the most noticeable characteristic of this species is the teeth. They’re so large that when the jaw is closed, the fangs on the lower jaw slide into specially formed pockets in the roof of the mouth. These pockets extend into sockets on either side of the brain. Depths: 600-6500 feet, but have been seen at depths of 16000 feet Trivia: Although rarely seen by humans, the fang tooth is the deepest living fish species discovered and because of its grotesque appearance, it has earned the nickname “ogre fish”.
Intro: The horrific-looking viperfish is one of the fiercest predators of the deep. It can be easily recognised by its large mouth and sharp, fang-like teeth. In fact, these fangs are so large that they will not fit inside the mouth and the fish can’t close its mouth completely. Instead, they curve back close to the fish\’s eyes. The viperfish is thought to use these sharp teeth to impale its victims by swimming at them at high speeds and its first vertebra located right behind the head, is designed to act as a ‘shock absorber’ that absorbs the force sustained during contact with prey. The viperfish is a relatively small animal, growing to about 11 or 12 inches in length, which may be the reason it possesses such a gnarly set of fangs to ensure its prey can’t escape from the grasp of its mouth. Creepy Cred: The viperfish has a hinged skull, which can be rotated up for swallowing unusually large prey. This feature is used in conjunction with their large stomachs that allow them to stock up on food whenever it is plentiful. Depths: 2000-9000 feet. Trivia: In the depths of the ocean where the viperfish is found, other fish can’t see its fanglike teeth, making its mouth become an unseen trap.