The ocean is a vast and mysterious place that we have barely begun to explore. While we might be well-educated on the creatures of coastal waters, we still discover new species as we explore the depths. The deep sea is our planet’s last frontier, and thanks to advances in technology, explorations are unfolding what we know about the strange life that lives beyond the reach of our sun’s rays.
As part of the EAF-Nansen project, an international team of experts explored the depths to study the bizarre deep-sea weirdies of the Walvis Ridge off the coast of Namibia. The crew of marine science researchers assessed the vulnerability of the marine ecosystems and the presence of vulnerability indicator species such as coral, sponges, and of course sharks!
Images taken during this expedition remind us that we share our planet with shockingly diverse groups of deep-sea lifeforms: from abominidable to adorable.
Found in the Southeast Atlantic, the Bearded Seadevil (Linophryne digitopogon) is named after the lure dangles from its chin. As if horns upon its head weren’t frightening enough, Its needle-like teeth and monster mouth add to its devilish charm.
An almost transparent coffinfish found during an expedition of the Walvis Ridge off the coast of Namibia earlier this year. This little guy is totally adorable and velvety soft.
As their name implies, Lanternsharks can generate light using organs called photophores. They use light to communicate, blend in with ambient light, and to warn predators. This species is gets its name because of the sculpted appearance of its denticles (the shark equivalent of scales). The find denticles of the Sculpted Lanternshark are arrange in very clear rows which you can see in this photograph.
This squid-like species (Spirula spirula) is actually not a true squid, but the only extant member of its entire order (Spirulida).
This is a species of Gastropoda found on the Vema seamount off the coast of Namibia. Its shell is colorful, soft and flexible unlike a common snail shell.
Probably the scariest fish to see on the Southeast Atlantic, the Longfin Dragonfish, or Bathophilus longipinnis, is another species of barbeled dragonfishes found on the seamounts of the Walvis Ridge. Not a lot known about these deep-sea creatures. Tell Freddy Krueger to take the day off: this dragonfish has all nightmares covered.
Looks like tongue or maybe a pickle, it’s actually a colony of organisms called a Pyrasome. The colonial structure is basically a hollow tube dimpled with pores that pull in water to filter out food. The filtered water is pushed out the end, propelling the tunicate. Pyrosomes can be as tiny as a grape or a large as a person.
The #EAFNansen team saw squid around the Wüst seamounts off the coast of Namibia, including this Histioteuthis macrohista. This species of squid is very colorful, distinguishable by a deep inner web between arms and species-specific photophore patterns on arms, mantle and around the right eyelid.
Two in one. The Southeast Atlantic is home to hermit crabs living inside other living organisms. It’s a fascinating example of symbiosis. Instead of living in shells that it eventually grows out of, the hermit crab lives and grows snugly inside another invert, moving it around to different food sources to feed on. Meanwhile, the outer invert provides not only shelter but nodules of stinging cells for defense. They’re a match made in weird heaven.