Have you ever watched any of the Star Wars films? Have you seen how many planets are up there beyond our atmosphere? Surely there is alien life somewhere somewhere out there, right? If at some point they've ever flown down to our globe, then it's entirely possible that they didn't "land" per say, but rather ended up in water. After all, our planet is made up of mostly water.
I reckon they’ve decided to swim in the sea rather than wander around up here on the land with all of us homosapiens; the land is so two-dimensional, there’s no depth. Some of the creatures you’re about to see are enormous, some are almost invisible, and some have only appeared in the last few years (very suspicious!). Take a look at these fifteen underwater oddities that could, perhaps, have travelled light years to watch you tip-toe past the surf and into their creepy, weird world.
15 Peacock mantis shrimp
This little clown might look like it's made of candy floss and fruit roll-up, but she’d love to just punch you in the face. Try to glance away from the hypnotic, strangely soulless eyes for just a second, and you’ll see that tucked under that flappy thing on her side that looks like a wing, is actually an elbow.
That’s actually a coiled bludgeon that she uses to THWAP anyone who gets in her way. She can slap you faster that a speeding bullet (literally… awesome!), and she’s been known to smash through aquarium walls.
Let’s go back to those blank eyes for a moment, shall we? They look a little dull for such a gaudily dressed young lady, but her eye-sight is as good as it gets, and she can see thirty times as well as a human including registering entire additional spectrums of light (like ultraviolet) that we can't identify with the naked eye.
If I had a trippy face like that and eyes that worked so well, I’d spend all day in front of a mirror. HOWEVER, I’m pretty sure that beard of hers is actually a JILLION eggs hanging from her face, so she’s probably too busy trying to find the perfect, massive stroller that can carry all of her multi-coloured children.
14 Marrus orthocanna
Wow. We’re looking for sea creatures that could be aliens and we actually found a rocket of theirs! Perfect. Doesn't it look like it could take you to the moon? I love all the flames that are spilling from the base of the translucent pods like someone photographed a firework and accidentally labeled it “Jellyfish.”
This thing is found in the Arctic Ocean (ironic since it looks so hot), and we know very little else about it. The thing that will really blow your mind, though, is that the colony of organisms (that’s right, it’s a colony) can grow up to eight feet long, but the swimming end (called a nectosome) is only five inches.
The fiery tail is actually the section of the jellyfish that traps, snares, and begins to digest tiny organisms that attempt to drift past this beautiful creature. I’ll bet these things are breathtaking in the wild, and not only because you’d have to be swimming in freezing waters to find one. I'm glad they chose to colonize Earth, but I'm just as glad that they chose to live far, far away from me. Who knows what else could be lurking under the Arctic ice caps!
13 Christmas tree worms
How cool are these guys, huh? Christmas tree worms (or pipe cleaners, depending on the time of year) actually help to defend the coral outcrops on which they live. You might think they seem simple, but you’d be wrong. Christmas tree worms live in groups on coral, and they pierce the surface beneath them with a calcium carbonate tube so that they can sit there for up to forty years. Think about that for a moment: a worm that refuses to move for forty years; there can’t be too many more like that on Earth.
But, they don’t just sit there.
These beautiful spirals have been seen protecting their hosts by tripping the feet of attacking starfish and sending them off into the sea. What’s more, is that Christmas tree worms are very, very hard to photograph because they can curl their intricate, spiraling arms back into their body and drop down into the coral like the head of a frightened turtle retreating into its shell. Which one is your favorite? I can’t get past the crazy head of the peacock mantis shrimp, but I’ve never seen anything like the Marrus Orthocanna (the jellyfish colony that looks as though it’s been set on fire). The ocean is a crazy place.
12 Tongue-eating louse
Yuck! We went from beautiful to just plain disgusting. No, Mr. Fish is not eating the nasty little bugs; they’re eating him. These parasites swim in through the gills before attaching themselves to the fish’s tongue. Then they drain the appendage of blood with a set of claws until the tongue shrivels away and drops off. Then, the louse latches on and pretends to actually be the fish’s tongue (as if you’re not going to notice).
It doesn’t stop there; the louse is a lonely little dude (even though it lives in a giant’s mouth) and prefers to cohabitate. So, if you were to pick up a little fish in The Pacific Ocean, you might find a few separate mating pairs of parasites living in its mouth. AND each of the lucky ladies can produce over 700 eggs in one burst. That’s a real mouthful!
Luckily, when these little monsters are ordering off the menu, they prefer surf to turf. In other words, you don't have to worry about whether they'll ever latch onto you. But, they have been found wriggling in the heads of fish bought in London, so double-check your scaly purchases before sticking anything into your mouth.
11 Sea scorpion
The sea scorpion is extinct, so I don’t know what this guy thinks he’s holding (isn’t the Internet awesome?). Even though this photo is totally fake, this terrifying critter makes the list because fossils have actually been found in the craters of meteorites in Iowa. Maybe this creature swam in the huge, enveloping oceans that covered the Earth 500 million years ago. Maybe he can actually walk over mountains on one of those sets of crazy, spiky-leg-claws. Or, maybe he straddled a meteorite that was hurling towards the planet in a cocoon of blazing fire.
We’ll never know.
What we do know, though, is that they were able to grow to be the same size of an average human today and they probably munched on slimy eel-like meals. One thing I know is that I’m glad there’s no chance I could accidentally step on one of these fellas while I’m failing to stay out of the water during a stand-up paddle-board yoga session. Or could I… This next little oddity is as common as they come, and they're directly related to the sea scorpion. In fact, if you live somewhere on the south coast of the States you may have eaten one.
10 Horseshoe crab
Meet Craig, the horseshoe crab. Craig here is supposed to be a direct descendent of the sea scorpion and he is very much alive. There are lots and lots of lots of horseshoe crabs still creeping along the Florida beaches. He looks like a nasty little bugger, but he’s actually harmless(ish).
The spear hanging from his backside is used for flipping him upright when he’s been tossed onto his back by the waves. It's kind of cute now that you think about it. In fact, the horseshoe crab is quite the romantic. The male likes to take the ladies up onto the nice soft sand of the beach before he attempts to make a few new horseshoe crabs. And so, Craig gets thrown onto his back quite often (by the waves, guys… just the waves).
Unfortunately for Craig, he’s also delicious, and a target for local fishermen. The horseshoe crab's blood has been proven to be useful to science; their blood clots in the presence of certain toxins, so humans occasionally harvest up to one-third of its blood (without killing it) before returning him to the ocean to scuttle around the depths once more. Don’t worry, they've been here for about 450 million years, and they're built tiny sea tanks. Craig isn’t going anywhere for a while.
9 Goblin shark
Damn, this guy is ugly. Look at all the loose skin over its jawbone. Nasty. Well, that skin is so loose because this shark’s jaw elongates to snatch at anything under its snout. Think of the way a snake curls back, then lashes out: the goblin shark doesn’t need to curl, he just snaps up anything he can get close to. In fact, that snout is a high-tech organic sensor that leads the shark to the electrical signals that all animals constantly emit. When you take a breath, and your shoulders raise, you release a little electricity. The goblin shark senses that and starts to drifts in your direction.
They call him a “slingshot feeder,” and he can get to 12 foot long, but he isn’t considered dangerous to humans. Lucky us! He mostly eats crabs and lives about a mile under the surface of the sea. The goblin shark is also the inspiration for the creature in Ridley Scott's film, Alien Covenant, where he gets to run around on two legs and munch on the silly space-cadets that wander unknowingly towards his nasty, soggy gob. I’ll definitely be watching that movie, but I doubt I’ll be dropping down into the deep, deep sea anytime soon. Since we’re talking about Scott's film, Alien, let’s take a quick look at the original alien...
So you might have guessed by now that the Hollywood horror creature from the Alien films is loosely based on a couple of our most terrifying sea critters. Let’s start with the phronima. We'll see exactly how much of the freaky animal was used in one of the most iconic horror film franchises.
The Phronima has a very similar shape as the Xenomorph queen. With claws and extra legs and all that good stuff that seems to be the exact length that a man-eating creature would want for stuffing things into its mouth. Even their faces are similar, notice the phronima's massive forehead? And what about that devastatingly long, spiked tail? Oh, and it's totally translucent, which means you won't see it once it's gone underwater.
But don't cancel your swimming lessons just yet; the phronima is only an inch tall (lucky for us). The Queen from Aliens is, like, 10 feet tall and you can see her from a mile away. Sometimes it's great to be a moderately sized mammal like a human, but most of the things in the phronima's habitat are still only bite-sized. Oh yeah, and the phronima can live in your belly until it kills you, just like those lovely chest bursters.
7 The eel
If you’ve ever seen an eel, you know that she prefers to slowly slink around in crevasses and under rocks like an absolute creep. But that’s only because she has a secret weapon: two sets of jaws. Do you see the little insert inside the head of the eel diagram above? That snaps out to grab its prey like a fist while the prey still thinks the eel is too far away to strike. Does that remind you of anything?
Our Hollywood Xenomorph is equipped with a similar (some might even say identical) appendage.
A lot of eels are nocturnal, so you'll usually find them slithering through the blackened holes in reefs and even curled around the rocks beside popular jetties. They add credence to the theory that swimming at night is dangerous, and they've been known to bite fingers and thumbs off of divers who would be silly enough to try and touch them. Seriously, guys, don't try to pat them; would you pat a Xenomorph? Didn't think so. We all like to think that the nastiest movies are fake, but in our nightmares we know the thing on the TV is actually just a few of our most common sea-friends mashed together.
6 Scaleless black dragonfish
All right, so she’s not always a scaleless black dragonfish, but she definitely looks like she could be from a different planet. You know how scientists will sometimes tell us that we’ll probably find life on Mars when we can inspect the water deposits properly? This little lady kinda makes you think we shouldn’t go there at all, right? If this is what we're going to be releasing, it would be better to avoid the extraterrestrials altogether.
She lives in the middle depths of the ocean (about 1,000 feet deep), and she waves that string known as a barbell around to attract little fish. Then, of course, she munches down on them with those needle-sharp fangs. To make matters worse, she has another set of teeth inside her mouth to ensure her prey cannot wriggle away. Look at the eyes and imagine following a pretty little light to suddenly be face-to-face with that!
At only 8 inches long, this slippery little sucker is more like a worm (by any colloquial definition) than a proper fish. Once again, I’m glad this nasty looking bugger is stuck far, far below the surface of the sea.
5 The blobfish (AKA Mr. Blobby)
Seriously, this guy’s name is “Blobfish,” and he belongs to the “Fathead Sculpin,” family. How perfectly named. He kinda looks like he should be serving up cafeteria food at a local high school, or squirting whipped cream into his mouth while he watches day-time television BUT, surprise surprise, he spends all day almost perfectly still. This fish’s body is a gelatinous mass of tissue that’s slightly less dense than the water deep down in the ocean where he resides.
This means that he sorta floats, but up to around 900 feet below the waves.
And get this: the blobfish is actually a predator (although, perhaps not too dangerous when compared to the other nasty buggers on this list)! It waits until something edible drifts in front of its face, then vacuums it into its floppy, flappy, mouth. We should note that although Mr Blobby is epically saggy up here on the surface, he would be much less loose where he belongs in the ocean; a little less like the extra flab around the back of a huge man’s scalp. For anyone out there who is grossly curious, the yellow thing on the right-hand side of his mouth is a parasite, as if this poor fella didn’t have enough to frown about.
This guy wins an award for the biggest something compared to its head size in the ocean. Can you guess what it is? It’s not too hard to figure out. The answer is its tongue!
Just kidding! The viperfish actually has the largest teeth vs. head of all the fish in the ocean. Does this mean, perhaps, that it cold be from another planet? Maybe not, but it does have a few more cool features. Like, the first vertebrae in its neck are designed to be a shock absorber so that is can totally SMASH down on its prey. AND those massively long teeth don’t fit in the viperfish’s mouth. Oh no, they run along the front of its face and are very close to piercing into the bottom of its eye.
Like many deep-sea fish, it dives down during the day, then drifts up to shallower waters at night to hunt. It uses a long, glowing (bioluminescent) cord to attract smaller fish and crustaceans, and the viperfish occasionally terrifies deep-sea fishermen as they pull up nets littered with ferocious looking carnivores. Luckily, you need to dive down to 5000 feet to find one while it’s hunting.
3 Dumbo octopus
Like all octopi, this blob actually has eight tentacles, but they’re webbed to look like a kind of apron or dress. Not the nicest colour, but it hides her unmentionables well. The two fins on the top of this young lady that look a little bit like ears which give her the "Dumbo" name, and the big cute eyes on the sides of the head certainly help to suggest this critter could star in a Disney movie. It wouldn't be a very long movie, this creature rarely bumps into any others for longer than a brief moment.
Having said that, can’t you imagine a whole cloud of these things raining down on Earth in little droplets from space?
I definitely can, I can even imagine her in a little space helmet, arriving on our beaches and quickly scurrying into deeper, darker water where no children can poke at the squishy skin. Some say that this gal doesn’t swim, but dances across the sea floor as she searches for crabs to envelop and little fish to sweep up under her dress. Regardless of her diet, I still reckon she’s the cutest little critter on the list.
2 Ausubel's mighty claw lobster
Doesn’t this guy look like he wasn't supposed to have a claw like that? You kind of expect him to be the only lobster with this unique long-claw, almost like a birth defect of some sort. But that isn't the case at all. This species is only one of three that can be found in Australia, and everyone in this family has a crazy right-hook. You wouldn’t want to be the one kid born being left-handed.
Unfortunately, this lobster is only about an inch long not including his arm, so it’s far less delicious than the big red lobsters that you can choose to pay far too much money for on special occasions.
Of course, this also means that this crustacean can only give you a relatively small nip. And even if it did try to, it would struggle to give a you proper pinch because it’s totally blind. Without sight, this creature scuttles around the sea and feels for anything asking for a pinch.
All things considered, it’s quite an unfortunate specimen; unbalanced and blind and very, very pale. Luckily, none of the other crabs in school would have had the gall to tease him while standing within its long reach.
1 Pink see through fantasia
Isn’t she pretty? Can you guess what all that stuff inside of her is? All that gloop? If you guessed her intestines and anus, then you'd be correct! If you can ignore the internal nastiness, then this sea cucumber could actually be quite magical, or as its name suggests, fantastic. However, very little is known about this weird animal as humankind didn’t discover her until 2007. Can you believe that? What’s even more peculiar is that she flashes with bioluminescence whenever a predator approaches.
So shouldn't we be able to see her from far, far away?
She’s basically a floating light globe, and she was only discovered a decade ago. Maybe, just maybe, she only landed on this planet in 2007! I’m guessing that the fact we know very little about this creature and the wonderfully descriptive name indicates that the scientist who first discovered and identified her might have been having a particularly psychedelic day. If that scientist wasn't already confused and a little worried, they certainly would have been after staring at this weird critter for a while. Which is your favourite? The peacock mantis shrimp is too awesome to ignore, but that flaming colony of jellyfish has blown my tiny mind.
Sources: australianmuseum.net.au deepseacreatures.org, myfwc.com, smithsonianmag.com, livescience.com, australiangeographic.com.au, arcodiv.org, todayi foundout.com, aqua.org, ocean.si.edu, ourbreathingplanet.com, rollingharbour.com, seaandsky.org, gloodydisgusting.com