With a vast underwater world to explore, it’s no surprise that marine scientists are forever discovering new species. Plumbing the bottomless depths of the ocean, we’re lucky enough to learn about the fascinating creatures of the deep that years ago would’ve gone undiscovered.
Some are frightening, some are funny, some seem to have come from another world entirely. The last ten years have gifted us some real ocean oddities, and we’ve picked out our favourites below.
This is a real deep-sea-dweller, and has been observed at depths of 8,178 metres around the western Pacific ocean. For a little perspective, that’s five miles down, making it the deepest-living fish ever found.
The Mariana snailfish is named after its home, the Marianas Trench, and was first collected in 2014. Only now however, in 2017, has the Mariana snailfish been given a name and catalogued.
This fascinating creature has adapted over time to resist the tremendous pressure of deep sea living. At its deepest, more than 36,000 feet down, the pressure is approximately 1,000 times the standard atmospheric pressure of water. If you can imagine the weight of an elephant standing on your thumb, then you’re close.
Mud Volcano Worms
Back in 2013, scientists landed upon one of the strangest marine habitats in Argyll’s Loch Swen, in Scotland. Burrowed within 3ft high mounds of mud on the seabed, mud volcano worms exist in complete darkness, concealed from the world outside. Until now.
According to the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), burrowed mud is a “surprisingly important” marine habitat that supports a rich and complicated community of animals.
The mounds are actually made by the volcano worms themselves, and cover an area of around 1,630 acres. Similar examples of this kind of habitat can be found in nearby Moray Firth, Firth of Forth and in the deep waters of St. Kilda and Rockall. The North Sea offers an ideal environment for these burrowers.
There is a method to the volcano worm’s madness, though. They’re actually contributing to the ecosystem around them: by dredging up mud and fine sand at the seabed, they are oxygenating it and mixing in different nutrients and minerals.
With the best name we’ve heard in a long while, the ninja lanternshark was found off the coast of Central America in 2015. It’s a fairly alien-looking character, and has jet-black skin, a long protruding nose and special cells that allow it to glow in the dark.
They can grow up to 18 inches long, and earned their name because of their resemblance to lanterns. In the deep, deep dark, the ninja lanternshark skulks the seabed in the pursuit of prey, leaving a faint shadow on the ocean floor as its eyes dart back and forth.
Terrifying stuff, but fascinating all the same.
Named after the research vessel MRV Scotia, this newly-discovered sea snail was found at depths exceeding 1.6km, almost a mile beneath the surface. 2013 saw it unveiled to the world, and it’s predicted that similar creatures are likely to be found.
Marine Scotland were responsible for the find, and having carried out a survey of Scotland’s marine life they collected other new species, from various molluscs to burrowing worms.
Hailing from the depths of the southwestern Indian Ocean, the narrow-head catshark has been catalogued based on one male and one juvenile found off the coast of Tanzania and Mozambique.
Not much is known about the narrow-head catshark yet, except that they are exclusively found in deep waters of below 200m depths. Very much a work in progress, further studies are needed to bring the habits of this catshark to light.
From the timid to the terrifying, modern marine science gives us a sneak peek into a world that, despite our very best efforts, does not belong to us. Marine life has never been so exciting, so fascinating and still, so mysterious.
Learn about the vast range of creatures at SEA LIFE – there’s something for everyone. Also, if you’re interested in UK conservation of sea creatures, you’ll want to hear more about the great strides SEA LIFE are making at the moment.