1. The Christmas Tree Worm
Spirobranchus giganteus, or the Christmas tree worm as scientists have lovingly named it, are tree shaped tube dwelling worms originally found at the Great Barrier Reef’s Lizard Island. They are tube dwelling worms that use the plumes for feeding and breathing, but they also freak out when disturbed and retract into their burrows. When I say they freak out, I mean they freak out. A passing shadow will cause these worms to set off alarms and retreat to safety.
There are both male and female worms, and regardless of sex, these things are tiny. They come in at just 3.8 cm in overall span, but due to the variety of vibrant colors they take, they are still pretty easily spotted. The way they eat is pretty fantastic, with appendages akin to feathers sticking out into the water and catching plankton. Christmas tree worms can be found all over the world on coral reefs located in tropical waters. I know what you are thinking and yes, you can absolutely poke at them as they are not dangerous to humans.
Find out more about these worms at: http://marinebio.org/species.asp?id=543
2. Vampire Squids
Okay, what do you even have to really say about Vampyroteuthis infernalis? I mean the name literally translates to “vampire squid from Hell.” Well, there are a few things you could say about it. Like how they technically aren’t squids because they have traits from both octopi and squids. You could also bring up how they have huge eyes, and I mean huge. They have the largest eye-to-body ratio of any species on the planet. The vampire squid also has two really long sensory filaments that it uses to produce light to attract prey. The crafty devil uses one filament at a time, swimming in a circle in hopes that it can snag a tasty meal.
Unlike “true” squids, Vampy cannot spray ink, but instead relies on its speed and agility using everything from jet propulsion to fin propulsion to get away when predators are in pursuit. The males tend to be smaller than females with the males, showing that the species has the trait of sexual dimorphism. Sexual dimorphism is basically just saying that even though they are the same species, there are obvious differences which can include anything from size to ornamentation. Vampire squids are mainly found in the Monterrey Bay along the central coast of California.
Read more about Vampire Squids at: http://marinebio.org/species.asp?id=179
3. Dumbo Octopuses
The octopuses in the family Grimpoteuthis are some of the lesser known species of octopi in the world, but that doesn’t make them any less awesome. Every member of the family are nicknamed “Dumbo octopuses” because of the fins that stick out just above their eyes that make them look like Dumbo from the animated Disney film. The species tends to have short semi-gelatinous bodies with an internal shell typically in a U or V shape. They have completely abandoned the idea of jet propulsion and instead just flap their “ears” to get around in the ocean. Well, that’s not completely true, they also use crawling, take-offs, and a passive mode called umbrella-style drifting.
Umbrella-style drifting is basically what you see jellyfish doing, opening and closing like an umbrella for propulsion. Since they are lesser known, we don’t know much about their diets or behavior, but biologists believe their snacks of choice are crustaceans and worms which they tend to swallow whole. Dumbo octopuses end up being about 20 cm in length regardless of sex. You can find these adorable octopuses on the deep ocean floor pretty much anywhere in the world.
Read more about these adorable octopuses at: http://marinebio.org/species.asp?id=558
4. The Iron-plated Snail
Basically the equivalent of an underwater tank, Crysomallon squamiferum is a deep-sea snail with an exoskeleton that is nothing short of remarkable. These little guys tend to hang out on hydrothermal vents and they use the fluids from said vents to make their shells stronger. When I say iron-plated, I’m not exaggerating. The shells on these snails have three layers: a very calcified inner layer, an organic layer, and then the outer layer that has been fused with iron sulfide from the vents. The armor that the snails use is unique in the world, unlike any armor found in nature or synthetically engineered. To give you an example, sea-faring crabs have to crush at this thing for days, you read that right, DAYS, with their claws until the shell finally gives.
The researchers that have studied the snail thus far have described the exoskeleton as being “…..advantageous for penetration resistance, energy dissipation, mitigation of fracture and crack arrest, reduction of back deflections, and resistance to bending and tensile loads.” Scientists are so impressed by the armor that they are using it as a basis for research for stronger materials for everything from cars to military equipment. The Iron-plated Snail was first discovered in 1999 over two miles below the central Indian Ocean.
Find out more at: http://www.esa.org/esablog/research/iron-plated-snail/
5. The Humphead or “Napoleon” Wrasse
Coming in at over six feet long and 400 pounds in weight, the Napoleon Wrasse is one of the largest species of reef dwelling fish in the ocean. They are easily identifiable by their huge lips, the unsightly bump on their foreheads, and the black lines that are behind their eyes. The coloring can vary, ranging from a dull bluish-green to jaw dropping shades of blue, green, and even a purplish-blue. When it comes to relaxing, they prefer reef caves or snoozing under outcroppings in reef ledges at night. Compared to some species, they tend to live a pretty long life with a life span of over 30 years. Let’s face it, that’s a pretty long time for anything these days. Old Humphead likes to snack on everything from mollusks and reef fish to more interesting treats like starfish and the toxic sea hare.
Like most members of the wrasse family, they usually start out as females but can transition into being males, though not all do. Regardless of the fact that they can take on the functionality of both sexes, the species is classified as endangered because of its slow breeding rate, predictable spawning sites, the live reef fish trade in Asia, and the fact that it is a delicasy in some countries. The Humphead wrasse can be mainly found throughout the Indian Ocean and from the Ryukuyu Islands to New Caledonia in the Pacific.
More information about the Napoleon Wrasse: http://aqua.org/explore/animals/humphead-wrasse
6. Frilled Sharks
Chlamydoselachus anguineus, or the frilled shark, looks like something straight out of a drunken sailor’s ghost stories. Frilled sharks are deepwater sharks that tend to resemble an eel more than they do the typical image of a shark but have a broad flat head with short snouts that make them have the appearance of snakes. This species can grow up to two meters long with females usually being longer and they often tend to reach sexual maturity at roughly one and a half meters. Usually dark brown or gray in color on the top, they are usually a lighter color below and have several pairs of what scientists call “frilly” gill slits that form something that looks like a collar.
As far as their teeth go, instead of the typical mouth full of pointy death that most sharks have, they have roughly 19-28 teeth on each jaw that alternate between standard cusps and small teeth with three thin needle-like cusps. The extremely long jaws also tend to be at the end of the snout instead of being positioned lower like you see in sharks like Great Whites. When dinner time comes around, they prefer squid and other sharks, and while feeding behavior has yet to be observed, biologists believe that they prefer to eat the injured or dying since the shark is not a strong swimmer. Top that off with the fact that many believe the Frilled shark tends to snap at prey like a snake and you have a pretty fantastic sea creature that has to be seen to be believed. The two “generally rare” species of Frilled shark can be found most commonly on island shelves at depths between 150 and 1,280 meters.
Learn more about this fantastic shark at: http://marinebio.org/species.asp?id=1485