Sunday, 5 December 2010

Monstrosities of the Deep Seas

Ah, the deep sea. Where it appears that to live, one simply MUST be monstrous. Life here is so horrendous and so difficult that just about everything is horrendous and difficult to look at. Marvellous. Here we look at some deep sea denizens. There are no sunlit shots or beautiful, wide vistas, just the merest glimpse through the porthole and into the darkness...


Bloodybelly Comb Jelly

Comb jellys are a kind of jelly thing that aren't particularly closely related to jellyfish. They swim by beating their so called 'combs', which are actually hair-like structures called cilia. You can see rows of them  all along the animal shimmering and glittering in the gloom. They are carnivorous and have two sticky tentacles for capturing prey. This particular comb jelly has a deeply pigmented stomach for masking the bioluminescence of its food. It also looks a bit like a heart, before looking more like some foreboding alien space vessel. Spooky.

Stygiomedusa gigantea

Now we see a proper jellyfish, and it's a whopper! The guy says it's 3 feet across and has 20 foot long oral arms and no stinging tentacles at all. Those oral arms look like bed sheets! The jellyfish just drifts and swims and apparently sticks to anything the arms touch and immediately attempts digestion via the same arms. So this thing is basically all stomach.

Deep Sea Siphonophore

We already took a look at the Portuguese Man o' War a little while ago, here's a deep sea relative. Just like the Man o' War it is comprised of hundreds and thousands of tiny creatures that work together to form one big organism. Some of the deep sea ones can be 130 feet (40 metres) long! That beautiful red fringe is a huge collection of stinging tentacles used to kill and consume just about anything it can.

Disgusting Siphonophore

Gosh. This obscene mass of writhing tentacles is another kind of siphonphore. It seems to have some kind of defense mechanism where it looks utterly abominable and causes nightmares and bed-wetting in would be predators. It doesn't work on me though, because I'm incredibly macho. Honest.

Deep Sea Sea Anemone
Oh yes, this is what I like to sea! Err, see. I could've said 'Deep Sea Anemone' but I decided to be a stickler. It has its tentacles lying on the floor, so I guess it specialises in capturing ground dwelling fish and maybe starfish and worms and stuff too. More importantly it looks like a huge eye! That is SO cool! Utterly surreal. I could imagine Dali walking over and cutting it with a gigantic pair of scissors.

"Long Arm" Squid

This weirdo is believed to be an adult of the Bigfin Squid, but no-one is completely sure yet. It certainly has a big fin and long arms though. It seems that the massive fins coming off the mantle allow easy and relaxed swimming, The 8 arms are ridiculously long and the 2 tentacles look exactly the same as them, which is actually unique among squid. They are also held perpendicular to the body, creating what look for all the world like elbows. It is believed that they drag those arms along the seafloor, grabbing whatever it finds. Alternatively, it might just swim around and catch anything it touches.

Another Squid

Demonstrating some deep sea diversity, here's another kind of completely different squid. It's so slim it's almost dainty. The mantle seems to end in a long rod with a tiny rippling fin and some other strange decoration. Basically I don't know anything about this squid.

Stauroteuthis

Stauroteuthis is a genus of octopus that contains just two species thus far known. They have fins on their mantle that are used for relaxed swimming and webbing connecting their arms. They also have cirri on the underside of the arms which are used to create a current and get food toward the mouth. In fact, they are quite similar to our very own Vampire Squid (from Hell). They even have photophores, but far less than the Vampire. These octopus have changed some of their sucker muscles into light emitters that can attract fatally confused prey straight to the mouth. It's all about relaxing and doing as little as possible in the deep sea. I can respect that.

Seapig
Yuck! Seapigs are a kind of sea cucumber. They are detritivores, which means they walk around feeding on detritus that has drifted down from upper parts of the sea and managed to reach the floor. This stuff is call marine snow when it's falling and simply mud when it lands. Yuck! 

Oarfish

Oarfish are strange, long, thin fish. Actually they are the longest of all bony fish, capable of reaching 17 metres or 56 feet. They have a dorsal fin running along the whole length, which ripples when it swims. It doesn't seem to move much aside from that. It eats tiny prey like plankton and small fish and shrimp. The oarfish is most commonly seen sick, dying or dead, for it can sometimes be seen thrashing about at the surface and getting washed up. This perhaps is where the idea of sea serpents came from. In the deep, the oarfish swims with it's head pointed up and it's tail down. It seems that this posture allows it to use silhouettes in the twilight to find prey. It looks quite elegant, like a stiletto, or maybe something else that's like a stiletto but isn't used to kill people. An icicle? 

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