deep-sea-life

Second Rare Oarfish Washes Ashore in Southern California

For the second time in a week, the rare, serpentine oarfish has surfaced on a Southern California beach.

Beach goers at Oceanside Harbor crossed paths Friday afternoon with the deep-sea monster when its carcass washed ashore, Oceanside Police Officer Mark Bussey said. The fish measured 13 ½ feet long. The discovery came just days after an 18-foot dead oarfish was found in the waters off Catalina Island. 

“The call came out as a possible dead whale stranded on the beach, so we responded and saw the fish on the sand right as it washed up,” Bussey said.

Oceanside police then contacted SeaWorld San Diego, the Scripps Research Institute and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Suzanne Kohin of NOAA Fisheries Serivice responded, measured and took possession of the oarfish for research, Bussey said. He further added that people on the beach were “flabbergasted” to see the fish.

“It’s not the typical fish you see on shore,” he said, adding the oarfish probably weighed over 200 pounds. The fish was far too big for Santana to carry alone; it took 15 people to bring the beast to shore.

But these two massive fish are puny by oarfish standards, according to the NOAA. The oarfish is the largest bony fish in the sea and can grow over 50 feet in length. Very little is known about the species, since it usually is found hundreds, if not thousands of feet below the surface, reaching depths up to 3,000 feet.

Polychaete Worm

Photograph courtesy NIWA    

Don’t let the rainbow glow fool you. This polychaete worm-found 3,900 feet (1,200 meters) down on the muddy seafloor off northern New Zealand—is a ferocious predator, with jaws that project à la the Alien movie monster.

Scientists spotted the creature—and many others—during a three-week expedition this spring throughout four deep-sea regions in the volcano-rich Kermadec Ridge.

Covering 3,800 square miles (9,840 square kilometers), the study area included undersea mountains, continental slopes, canyons, and hydrothermal vents-areas where undersea volcanoes release hot water and gases.

The “exciting” survey turned up several known species, from stalked barnacles to giant mussels, as well as potential new ones, biologist Malcolm Clark said by email.

“Overall, the survey confirmed our belief that the biological communities of the four deep-sea habitats would be different,” added Clark, who led the voyage for New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research.

The research also further illuminated the deep sea, which is “to an extent, out of sight and out of mind,” he said.

“In order to ensure that deep-sea ecosystems do not suffer too much damage from things like bottom trawling or mineral extraction, we need to know what animals occur there, and how vulnerable they are to impact.”

(See “Pictures: ‘Supergiant,’ Shrimp-Like Beasts Found in Deep Sea.”)

—Christine Dell'Amore

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In an ironic strategy for survival, a tiny shrimplike creature called an amphipod shows everything it has, inside and out, in an attempt to disappear. 

The unusual animal, called Phronima, is one of the many strange species recently found on an expedition to a deep-sea mountain range in the North Atlantic. 

Many small deep-sea creatures are transparent, or nearly so, to better camouflage themselves in their murky surroundings, scientists say. 

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Frilled Shark 

Humans rarely encounter frilled sharks, which prefer to remain in the oceans’ depths, up to 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) below the surface. Considered living fossils, frilled sharks bear many physical characteristics of ancestors who swam the seas in the time of the dinosaurs. This 5.3-foot (1.6-meter) specimen was found in shallow water in Japan in 2007 and transferred to a marine park. It died hours after being caught.

Noodle-Armed Deep-sea Squid Mystery Solved


Jane J. Lee

National Geographic

Published August 27, 2013

Many deep-sea squid actively grab their prey, sporting two muscular tentacles used to drag unsuspecting prey into their mouths.

But one squid species that lives down deep—the “wimp” of the proverbial playground—has limp noodles for arms. Scientists have wondered for years how it managed to catch and eat anything.

Grimalditeuthis bonplandi also lacks the hooks, suckers, sticky pads, or glowing spots—called photophores—present on the tentacle tips or clubs of their more muscular brethren. These elaborate clubs help squid lure or hang on to meals.

Now, new underwater video suggests that G. bonplandi wiggle their bare clubs to draw in animals like crustaceans and fish. The wriggling either sets offbioluminescence—which many deep-sea organisms flock to like moths to a flame—in the water or mimics the vibrations given off by swimming worms or shrimp, would-be prey for the crustaceans and fish.

But rather than getting dinner, these curious animals find themselves on the menu. (See more pictures of squid.)

Go Fish

Grimalditeuthis bonplandi is strange because it’s the only known squid with bare clubs and because it likely uses movement to bring in a meal, said Henk-Jan Hoving, a marine biologist at the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, and lead author of a new study on the squid.

“This is [also] the only squid we know of that have feeding tentacles that can’t shoot out,” and grab prey like most other squid, said study co-author Bruce Robison, a deep-sea ecologist with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI).

Closer examination of G. bonplandi tentacles showed a distinct lack of musculature compared to the tentacles of closely related species, according to the study, published August 27 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Robison speculates that the squid shoots its entire body forward to capture prey lured in by its bare tentacle clubs, rather than using its tentacles to bring its meal toward the mouth.

“When you go fishing, you like to have really thin fishing line,” Robison said. “If we view this as a lure at the end of a fishing line, having a really slender thread out to your bait makes sense.”

read more and watch the video