Five fas­ci­nat­ing crea­tures of the deep sea

Ovens & Murray Advertiser - - REGIONAL EXTRA - WITH CHRIS FEBVRE, Goblin shark Gi­ant iso­pod An­gler fish Viper­fish Gi­ant squid

EARTH’S oceans are a fas­ci­nat­ing place and one of the few re­main­ing ar­eas of the globe which re­main a mys­tery to hu­mankind, de­spite it be­ing the lifeblood of the planet.

Our oceans drive the weather, reg­u­late tem­per­a­ture and sup­port all liv­ing or­gan­isms.

Presently, less than five per cent of the ocean depths have been ex­plored, which means there is still plenty we don’t know about them, or the crea­tures that in­habit them.

For that rea­son, I thought I’d take a look at some of the most in­ter­est­ing an­i­mals that live in the deep blue sea.

The goblin shark is a rare species of shark and the only ex­tant species of the fam­ily known as Mit­sukurinidae which dates back some 125 mil­lions years.

For this rea­son the goblin shark is la­belled a ‘liv­ing fos­sil’.

It’s elon­gated snout, translu­cent skin, and a row of nail-like teeth make for a ter­ri­fy­ing vis­age, and it can grow up to four me­tres in length.

Thank­fully, the goblin shark lives at depths of around 270 me­tres, so it’s un­likely you’ll come across one while pad­dling at the beach.

The gi­ant iso­pod be­longs to the fam­ily of crus­taceans and are sim­i­lar in phys­i­ol­ogy to crabs and shrimp, although they closely re­sem­ble the much smaller wood­louse.

Grow­ing up to 36 cen­time­tres in length, they are a good ex­am­ple of deep-sea gi­gan­tism, a fea­ture com­mon to many deep sea crea­tures, due to them be­ing much larger than a typ­i­cal iso­pod which grows to roughly five cen­time­tres in length.

They are of lit­tle in­ter­est to most com­mer­cial fish­eries, although they are eaten in Tai­wan.

This scary preda­tor re­ceives it’s name due to the fleshy pro­tru­sion, known as an il­li­cium, that juts from the top of it’s head and acts as a lure for it’s prey.

Like many deep sea crea­tures, some species of An­gler fish are bi­o­lu­mi­nes­cent, which means their il­li­cium pro­duces light.

The an­gler fish will wrig­gle the il­li­cium in or­der to re­sem­ble small prey, which lures other fish close enough so that the an­gler fish can con­sume them us­ing their row of nee­dle-like teeth.

The term ‘viper­fish’ en­com­passes fish of the genus Chaulio­dus.

They are char­ac­ter­ized by long, nee­dle-like teeth and a hinged lower jaw, mak­ing their bite par­tic­u­larly deadly for their prey.

Sim­i­lar to the an­gler fish, viper fish also use bi­o­lu­mi­nes­cence to lure their prey close, and they are ca­pa­ble of turn­ing this nat­u­ral light on and off like a light switch.

In­ter­est­ingly, they also use this light to com­mu­ni­cate with po­ten­tial mates.

But with a face like theirs, surely only their moth­ers would love them.

Of­ten por­trayed in sailor’s myths and le­gends, most no­tably by the name of ‘kraken’, the gi­ant squid is an­other species that can grow to tremen­dous size due to deep-sea gi­gan­tism.

With a max­i­mum size of 13 me­tres, the gi­ant squid truly is one of the won­ders of the ocean, and has be­come even more leg­endary due to how rarely they are ob­served.

Like all squid, a gi­ant squid has a man­tle (torso), eight arms, and two longer ten­ta­cles.

The arms and ten­ta­cles them­selves are lined with hun­dreds of ser­rated suc­tion cups that the squid uses to at­tach it­self to it’s prey.

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