A team of 58 scientists completed a month-long expedition across the abyss off the coast of Australia. It was the first time these ocean depths from 4000 to 6000 meters were explored. The scientists were hoping to discover many new species and they were not disappointed with the specimens they found. Since abyssal animals had to adapt to an environment with no seasonal changes, crushing pressures, darkness and little food, there’s no surprise that scientists came back bearing some strange-looking, creepy creatures.
More info: nespmarine.edu.au
#1 Peanut Worm
The peanut worm (Sipuncula) is a deep-sea worm resembling a phallus. When threatened, they can contract their long head inwards and look more like a peanut. They can reproduce both sexually and asexually.
#2 Cookiecutter Shark
This nasty little bioluminescent shark, with its neatly arranged serrated teeth, inhabits the oceanic “twilight zone” in depths of up to 1,000 metres. It preys on big fishes, whales, dolphins and the occasional unfortunate swimmer, latching onto them before gouging out cookie-sized chunks of flesh.
#3 Glass Sponge
These incredible glass sponges have a skeleton made of a lattice of silica filaments, some of which can be up to a metre long. They feed by sifting bacteria and other single-celled organisms from the water gently passing over their delicate glass housing.
#4 Red Spiny Crab
This bright red spiny crab sports an armour of spikes which protect it from the dangers of the deep. These are not actually true crabs but related more to hermit crabs – although this hermit has traded in its shell for gnarly spikes.
#5 Blob Fish
This blob fish was collected from a depth of 2.5 kilometres off New South Wales. It has soft watery flesh and is an ambush predator that lies very still on the bottom, waiting for unsuspecting prey to pass by.
This mysterious little deep-sea coffinfish, with its bluish eyes and red feet, belongs to the anglerfish group. It is potentially a new species.
#7 Dumbo Octopus
Dumbo octopus flap their ear-like fins, just like the Disney character of the same name, except this animal flaps its ears to glide gracefully through the deep, dark abyss.
#8 ‘faceless’ Fish
With no eyes, the “faceless” fish was found four kilometres below the surface. The species was first collected in the northern Coral Sea more than 140 years ago during the voyage of HMS Challenger, the world’s first round-the-world oceanographic expedition. It has been rediscovered in Australia after more than a century.
#9 Lizard Fish
Being the dominant predator of the depths isn’t easy though: at depths of 1000–2500 metres there is very little food, so lizard fish are few are far between to maximise scarce resources.
#10 Brittle Star
The brittle star can be found right across the globe from Siberia in the north to Antarctica in the south, yet we know almost nothing about them.
#11 Tripod Fish
These iconic abyssal fishes, often called spiderfishes, prop high off the sea floor on their stilt-like fins. Like all fishes in the spiderfish family, they have very reduced eyes. To feed, they face into the current, extending their elongated pectoral fins forward and “feel” their prey items drifting by.
#12 Zombie Worm
Zombie worms (Osedax) are commonly found in the decaying remains of whales on the ocean floor, burrowing into their bones to reach the sustenance within. With no functioning mouths, guts or anuses, they have bacteria that digest the grisly remains for them.
#13 Herd Of Sea Pigs
These cute little pink pigs, found in the Freycinet Marine Reserve off Tasmania, are the ocean’s vacuum cleaners, using their tube-like feet to move across the abyssal mud and hoovering up micro-organisms.
#14 Giant Anemone-Sucking Sea Spiders
These alien lifeforms are not actually spiders at all but one of the oldest arthropods to grace planet Earth. Simplicity is their motto, being little more than a tube within a tube. Many sea spiders have legs that glow in the dark.
These coral organisms belong to the same group as anemones, jelly fish, hard corals and other tentacled creatures of the sea.
#16 Flesh-Eating Crustaceans
Crustaceans such as this amphipod are deep-sea scavengers and will eat almost anything nutritious they come across – including the decaying remains of a dead whale, drifted down from the world above.