Marching ... er... swimming on. Our final deep sea contestant for the weird and wonderful brought to you by our marvelous Creator is the Anglerfish.
I know, it's really creepy! But if you lived almost a mile below the surface and in total darkness ... well ... you'd probably look a little creepy too!
Anglerfish have often won the accolade of being the ugliest creature on the planet. Generally dark gray to dark brown in color, they have large heads with crescent shaped mouths filled with sharp, fang like translucent teeth that are angled inward. They vary in length from 8 inches to 3 feet long and can weigh up to 100 pounds. (And this is NOT something I would ever want to find on the end of my fishing line-if I ever actually did any fishing. :)) Their skin and bones are very flexible though fragile. This flexibility enables them to swallow prey twice their size. This is a handy ability to have when you live where food is scarce.
The more than 200 species of Anglerfish live up to a mile below the surface in the cold and murky depths of the Atlantic and Antarctic oceans. A lucky few do live in shallow, tropical environments.
One of the most fascinating things about these fish is the distinctive spine on the females that juts out from the middle of her head and resembles a fishing pole with a light globe at the end. This is what she uses to attract her prey.
The adult males don’t need this fishing line because this species gives a whole new meaning to ‘and the two shall become as one flesh’. The digestive tract of the male Anglerfish stops functioning when he reaches maturity. In order to survive, he hooks onto the female with small teeth and releases an enzyme that digests the skin of her body and his mouth. This allows them to fuse and in fact their blood vessels ultimately join and they become one creature. The females however are quite fickle and not satisfied with just one mate, a female will sometimes have up to six males attached to her. Weird!
So, do you agree that this is one of the ugliest creatures on the planet? Or is there perhaps something beautiful about their ability to bring even a tiny bit of light to an otherwise dark existence?
I know. You're thinking "WHAT?" But just look at how pretty that is. Every time I write one of these blogs I learn so much more about the amazing creatures we share this planet with. A friend of mine, Lucy Morgan-Jones, suggested this topic. So here we are. Exploring the world of the Sea Slug. Let me tell you just a few of the fascinating facts about these creatures.
There are over 3000 known species of Nudibranch (naked gill). It is believed there are many more yet to be discovered. They are found all over the world, with the largest population and different types in tropical waters. Many sea slugs are quite small, but the ones found in the Great Barrier Reef off the Australian Coast can grow up to 12 in.
While they gave up the protection of carrying a shell, (hence the name Nudibranch, which I rather like) many have created different kinds of protection. They can become toxic. These guys absorb, for example, the stinging cells from sea anemones, and store them own defence or they absorb toxins from their food and incorporate that into their own defense systems.
This ability has to absorb cells has led to something I find most fascinating about one particular group of Nudibranch. This slug, Elysia chlorotica, basically eats a plant and becomes photosynthetic, in other words, solar powered. It steals the genes from the algae that it eats and becomes a plant-animal. Scientists studying this phenonemon are still attempting to understand just how the slug makes this work.
I bet when you read 'Sea Slug' you had no idea just how pretty they would be. And this is only a very small sample of these fascinating creations. Which one is your favorite?
Otherwise known as ...
Here is another fascinating creature. Did you know that the jellyfish is one of the oldest living creatures in the world? There are more than 200 species of jellyfish and they live in all the oceans, at different temperatures and depths and even in fresh water.
A jellyfish mouth is underneath their bell-shaped body and they catch their food with their long tentacles which have thousands of venom filled nematocysts on them and are mainly used to sting the prey and paralyze it. These tentacles are also useful to sting a likely predator and protect the jellyfish. So, stay clear if you see them floating by! Yes, they will consider you a predator!
What do they eat, you ask? Depending on the species and their size they may eat small fish, zooplankton and the eggs and larvae of other sea creatures. Larger versions (the largest known jellyfish had a bell that measured seven feet in diameter-Scary!) eat crustaceans and sometimes other jellyfish. :(
Their bells have an outer layer called the epidermis and the nerve receptors in the epidermis detect odor, light, pressure and other stimuli. They pump water in and out of the bell to enable themselves to move up and down but depend on the waves and the wind to move them horizontally.
One of the things I find most fascinating about the jellyfish is they have no brains or skeletons. You heard me. No brains. I know, there is definitely a joke there somewhere. Who said God doesn’t have a sense of humor? And a certain sense of whimsy, too, I think. :)
The final stage of growth for the jellyfish is called medusa, because of their similarity to the Greek Gorgon, Medusa who had snakes for hair and would turn you to stone if you looked at her eyes. Fortunately, the jellyfish are far more beautiful than Medusa.
The photos below are only a very small sampling of this gorgeous and rather fantastic creation.
Susan J Donetti
Lives in Northern California with her husband, two dogs, three cats and one horse.