The oceans hold the key to incredible underwater mysteries. Despite the thousands of species that have been discovered, studied and catalogued, we have only examined a tiny fraction of the subsea realm. And with more than 95 percent of this underwater world remaining unexplored, it seems many of the ocean’s weird and wonderful secrets have yet to be revealed to us. We bring you six of the world’s weirdest sea creatures discovered so far:
Species: Psychrolutes marcidus
Some marine scientists call them “fathead”, but at first glance, they look like a mass of human brain. The blobfish is rarely seen near the shallow parts of the ocean, but lurks in the deep waters off the coasts of Tasmania, Australia and New Zealand. While lacking a gas bladder, the blobfish compensates by having a jelly-like body and a near-absent skeleton. The high pressure underwater enables the blobfish to retain its regular fish-like appearance, but the change in pressure when it’s pulled above water causes it to look like a pile of flesh.
The blobfish does not hunt purposefully; instead they wait patiently for food like shellfish, crabs and sea urchins to come their way before sucking them into their gaping mouths. If there is a scarcity of food sources, it is likely that the blobfish will die of starvation. The practice of bottom trawling is currently threatening the long-term survival of the species.
Pink See-Through Fantasia
Sounding like a seductive title of a lingerie line, the pink see-through fantasia is actually a swimming sea cucumber found in a remote area of the western Pacific Ocean (bordered by Sulu Archipelago, the Mindanao Islands of the Philippines, and Indonesia).
A team of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration marine scientists and underwater photographers unexpectedly found this animal during a research expedition, 2,500 metres deep in the Celebes Sea. Apart from scientists knowing that it uses the tiny finger-like webbing below its body to swim around, the behavioural patterns and biology of this sea cucumber are a complete mystery.
Tiny Pink Flapjack Octopus
Species: Yet to be confirmed
The size of a human fist, and with features vaguely reminiscent of those of the ghosts in Pac-man, the tiny pink flapjack octopus has caught the attention of the marine science world. Researchers are still looking for a suitable Latin species term for it, most in favour of the name Opisthoteuthis adorabilis. These big-eyed critters are still in the early research stage, but have so far been found to dwell in the deep sea, moving on the seabed to find food and mates. The octopus has special webbing between its tentacles that give it a balloon-like bounce when it swims. Marine enthusiasts would have to dive 200 to 600 metres below the Pacific Ocean just to get a glimpse of these enigmatic cephalopods.
Species: Gorgonocephalus eucnemis
If you don’t look carefully enough, you may mistake this creature for a bunch of seaweed, and run a mile once it starts to wiggle on its own! The basket star is described as having a central disk with thick arms and short vein-like tendrils branching out. The bigger ones can be found deep under the sea while the smaller ones are seen in shallow tide pools. The basket star loves being around corals and sponges, so much so that they will purposely curl up with a poisonous sponge to frustrate their predators.
The basket star hunts for their prey at night and uses their tendrils and mucus to trap small molluscs, fishes and crustaceans, before waiting until morning to feed on them. When they feel threatened, these creatures curl into a tight ball.
Species: Scorpaenopsis oxycephala
Commonly found in the shallow areas of the Western Indo-Pacific and South Africa, the tassled scorpionfish is constantly on the lookout for unsuspecting fishes, shrimps and crabs. Once its target is close, the scorpionfish’s mouth becomes a powerful suction device that sucks the prey into its mouth in the blink of an eye. Its clever camouflage, which changes according to its surroundings, makes it hard to differentiate them from regular corals.
The tassled scorpionfish’s anal, dorsal and ventral fins are venomous, and used to ward off predators. The animal lacks a swim bladder, and is thus found near or on the seabed waiting for its prey. Normally, its poisonous fins will deter predators, but it does not pose a problem for adult octopuses, which will readily and effortlessly chomp them down.
Species: Ostracion cubicus
The yellow boxfish looks like a cube – initially their young come in yellow with dark-blue spots. As it grows older, the boxfish grows longer and their colours change with their spots, eventually progressing to white with blue rings. Though their size seems tiny at first, they can grow up to 45 centimetres as adults.
Yellow boxfish are not aggressive by nature, but when provoked can release a deadly toxin called “ostracitoxin” – which appears as foam on the water’s surface when released. Due to their low tolerance for stress, they find security in
crevices among rocky or coral reefs but have been known to venture out into the open ocean.