Ah, the ocean. Bottomless, beautiful, and home to a wide diversity of life: from the spunky dolphin to the majestic whale. Also, the source of endless amounts of nightmare fuel! There are plenty of creepy, dark back roads evolution has taken in the big blue, almost all of them ready to haunt your dreams. Here are just ten of them: (There are plenty more!)
10. The Hagfish
Say hello to the hagfish, a creature of the class Myxini. The hagfish has many unique qualities: it’s the only creature with a skull but without a spinal column, and it excretes massive amounts of slime as a defense tactic. But even that disgusting little factoid pales to the worst characteristic ever, of any animal in the animal kingdom, even the candiru*.
You see, the hagfish enters other creatures and then eats them from the inside out. And that’s not even the absolute worst part. The hagfish has no way to penetrate the skin, so it has to find some way to get into the fish. That would be the fish’s orifices. And all orifices are up for grabs.
That’s right, the hagfish will not only eat its prey alive, it’ll anally violate it first.
(*The Candiru is a small parasitic catfish that reportedly enters the human body via the urethra.)
9. Tiburonia Granrojo
Better known as the Big Red Jellyfish and, since it’s on this list, you know that doesn’t have anything to do with the chewing gum. It’s three feet wide, fulfilling the “big” part. It’s also “red”. And we bet you think we’re going to tell you it’s got stinging tentacles that’ll kill you. But no, no it doesn’t. It has “oral arms.”
The Big Red doesn’t give a crap about actually paralyzing its prey. It just grabs whatever the hell it wants to eat and puts it in its mouth. Alive. Quite possibly screaming about the Great Old Ones.
In fact, we’re pretty sure these are just little Cthulus, waiting to burst free. Kill on sight, gentlemen.
8. Snakehead Fish
No, that is not, in fact, a cartoon character. Nor was it exposed to nuclear waste. It’s just the Snakehead, which is commonly found in Asia and Africa. How it got the name is pretty obvious.
So why are we mentioning it here, beyond it being a creepy fish with fangs? Because it can come out of the water to say hello, and maybe even eat some rats! Yes, the Snakehead can come out of the water for short periods of time, as it has a primitive lung near its gills.
Oh, by the way, they’ve been spotted all up and down the Eastern Seaboard, they’ve been seen in the UK, and they’ve even been spotted in Canada. They might be what’s called an “invasive species”, which can take hold in other locations.
7. Promachoteuthis Sulcus
The Promachoteuthis is a fairly undistinguished squid. Only one has ever been caught in the wild, thanks to (who else?) the Germans. Of course, we only need one to haunt your freakin’ dreams.
You see, this squid has teeth. Not pointy little fangs, not a beak… it’s got a mouth under there. You half expect this thing to start speaking to you, reciting an eldritch language and summoning Nyarlathotep to ensure terrible vengeance for its death.
You have to wonder what the guys who hauled this thing up thought when they first saw it. If it’s anything other than ‘DEAR LORD IT HAS TEETH!’ maybe we should feed them to the hagfish.
6. Deep Sea Lizard Fish
We like how this is called a “lizard fish,” named either by somebody who misses the points of jokes an awful lot or somebody who didn’t want this immediately fished to destruction because nobody thinks something like that should exist. Because it shouldn’t.
Are we being judgmental? Well, yes. On the other hand, things that big with mouths full of needle teeth make us that way. These things need to die. We’d recommend eating them if we weren’t sure their very flesh was coated with spines to gouge your mouth open and kill you while the dead-eyed lizardfish looks on laughing. (Deep Sea Lizard Fish is at 2:49 in video above.)
So we nuke them. The lack of whales is a small price to pay.
5. Vampire Squid
The name “vampire squid” is misleading, although it’s easy to understand why a squid that’s jet black with red eyes and webbed tentacles topped with wicked spikes would be mistaken for a creature barfed up out of hell. Especially since the inside of the creature shows its tentacles are covered in spines! That’s to stick in your mind for when the bad dreams come.
Oh, but wait, there’s more: it can also trigger all sorts of flashes across its body. Scientists say that it has light-generating organs under its skin called “photophores”, but we’re pretty sure it’s witchcraft. After all, these are the same scientists who gave this thing a Latin name that means “vampire squid from hell,” so you know they’re hiding something. (Vampire Squid shows up 51 seconds in to above video.)
4. Pelican Eel
Eels in general are disgusting creatures that societies have spent centuries trying to eradicate on the basis of “that ain’t right.” Eels can bite, they can electrocute you, but there was one advantage we had over them: they couldn’t eat parts of us whole.
Well, say hello to the Pelican Eel, who can do that. Just how big is this cute little guy’s appetite? So big they’ve actually caught a specimen with a whole squid in its stomach. Yes, a whole squid. It just slurped it up alive, like you’d eat calamari.
On the other hand, the squid is related to some of the freaks on this list, so he maybe deserves a little less sympathy.
3. The Elbowed Magapinna Squid
Squid, as you might have noticed, are creatures with a wide variety of evolutionary branches on the old tree of life. In fact, squid have evolved in many, many unique ways- resulting in freaky features, such as elbows.
Why elbows? Why not elbows? After all, squid have to develop an ability to take over the earth somehow, and at least some of the humans will figure out that the squid, in their reverse scuba suits, have trouble with doors and pull ups, since they lack joints. Leave it to the Magapinna! It’ll open those doors and pull itself up the sides of buildings lickety split, and eat the few remaining humans that have been able to defend themselves against the squid hordes.
Isn’t evolution beautiful?
The Stargazer fish doesn’t have incredible dreams that life in a small town are holding back, nor does it have any particular interest in astronomy. It just happens to sit on the bottom of the ocean a lot, and since it needs to eat, has its eyes on the top of its head. Or maybe on stalks, because “eyes on top of the skull” wasn’t quite unnerving enough.
But it gets better! You see, Stargazers aren’t just kind of ugly, they’re actively dangerous! They’ve got poison spines and some can even turn out a pretty nasty electric shock. Yes, this may be the slacker of the “things that can really hurt you” category, but that doesn’t mean it won’t put in the effort if you get close enough.
1. Blue-Ringed Octopus
OK, so the blue-ringed octopus might be the cutest animal on this list, not that that’s particularly hard, but we concede the point. It’s just a tiny little octopus covered in polka dots. A tiny little octopus that’s more fatal than Rambo suffering a bout of ‘roid rage.
The blue-ringed octopus, you see, is from Australia, and no animal in Australia is allowed to exist without some horrible form of venom that will kill you slowly. This particular octopus, though, is an overachiever even by Australian standards, with a painless bite that will slowly paralyze your entire body until you die from being unable to breathe.
The only way to survive is to have people doing CPR on you until medics arrive. And put you on a ventilator to keep you alive. Oh, and you’ll be fully aware most of the time. Yep, no anti venom- you’re just going to have to sweat it out. Luckily, most people make a full recovery.
We just want to know this: what the heck was eating these things that they evolved defenses that powerful?
by Dan Seitz
This is a nice list but I study zoology and I specialize in Ichthyology, and you have a couple problems with your list. The true definition of deep-sea is below the thermocline, at around 1,800 meters or below. 1, there is only one species of the 70 species of hagfish that is deep sea and that is the Atlantic Hagfish and the video does not appear to be an Atlantic Hagfish. 2, Tiburonia granrojo has only been found at it’s deepest distance down at 1,500m down, exempting it from be considered a deep-sea creature. 3, the Snakehead is not a sea fish at all, it’s completely freshwater. I actually had to look up Promachoteuthis sulcus, I’ve never heard of it before but it is a deep-sea squid but only one has ever been found. 4, there are 50 species of stargazers worldwide and they are all found in shallow coastal waters. Lastly, the Blue-ringed Octopus is not deep-sea either, it’s found on the costal regions of Australia all the way up to Japan. I love these guys, they are considered the most venomous animal in the world and the second most deadliest animal in the world. Thanks,
Nowhere does it say any of these are deep sea creatures; “Of the deep” is a common metaphorical way of saying “of the seas.”
And the blue ringed octopus is overshadowed by the box jellyfish in terms of being venomous. However, the snakehead is not a saltwater fish. At least one of your corrections was correct.
what’s with number 7. The thing looks like it’s got a bloody human mouth!
The “teeth” on the Promachoteuthis Sulcus squid (#7) are actually circular lips, and the beak is inside. Reference here: http://tolweb.org/Promachoteuthis_sulcus/19531
But I admit, that is one freaky feature!
omg – so if hagfish slime gets inside of you (apart from the screaming and agony once it’s eating you from inside) does it mean your bodily fluids coagulate and solidify?! O..M..G…!!!
Fortunately, no recorded attacks on humans yet since hagfish usually dwell in deep, cold waters, and are mostly attracted to dead rotting things or nearly dead sickly things, but swarms of them can reduce a whale corpse to bare bones! They’re like the sea’s maggots, the top consumers of the dead.
If you were trapped in a tank of them naked and they got hungry enough, though, I doubt they would be picky…
While this is really entertainingly written, the hagfish actually isn’t a parasite, like a vulture, it attacks the dead and dying, or it preys on tinier animals alive 🙂
Thanks Jonathan – I confirmed this tip and revised the list.
Oh, and by the way, don’t forget to celebrate Hagfish Day on October 20th – a celebration of combination of creatures who are “unusual, endangered, and beauty challenged” (whaletimes.org).
Hagfish day? I should do something special for my site! 😀