Creatures from the Black Lagoon? Hmmm… these could be cousins. Meet our fascinating deep sea denizens in The Deep: Illuminating the Mysteries of the Deep Sea
(above) One of over 40 specimens displayed, this is a Flapjack devilfish, a finned octopus that lives near the bottom of the sea floor. When they are caught, the muscles of the octopus retract, giving them their characteristic flat pancake shape
We had the chance to catch this fascinating exhibit at the ArtScience Museum last June. The whole exhibit is like a sci-fi movie come to life, if the sci-fi movie in question involves strange life forms. The creatures here are what are known as abyssal (from abyss) because, well, they live deep below the sea, deeper than most divers venture. Looking at them brought home to me the realization that we still know so little about life in our seas, despite the fact that we’ve sent many manned expeditions to the moon, have gone exploring farther into our solar system that we’re now saying hello to Pluto, and have made inroads into technology that we can communicate with anyone in the world at the push of a few buttons. As these pictures show, our seas are still uncharted territory for the most part. They’re our version of terra incognita. Enjoy the images!
By the way, these specimens are real, but are exhibited in preserved forms. The animals in The Deep have been preserved in formalin to ensure that there is no loss of pigment or alteration of their natural colors. They are then suspended in fluid by invisible threads (for the most part) embedded in resin walls to create a more natural effect.
The two photos above are of the Krayer’s deep-sea anglerfish, male and female. If you can see in the upper photo, the little dangling bit below the fish’s tail is the male, which can grow to 16 cm in length, compared to the female, which can grow to 1.2m. The tiny parasitic male, attaches itself to the belly of the large female and fuses his tissues with her for eternity. Talk about “till death do us part”! Like most species of anglerfish, this has a rod above his head, with a bioluminescent lure that it uses to attract its prey. Unlike other anglerfish though, this species can reel in the rod until its mouth to catch the prey. This anglerfish can be found 400-3,400 m.
A sea spider. Like its land-based cousins, this one is all legs with a small body and crawls/paces in the ocean in search of sponges, corals or anemone to feed on. Once it finds its prey, it inserts its proboscis into it and drinks it, like juice! Yum! This can grow up to 30 cm in size.
This handsome fellow is a goblin shark, and lives 100 meters below the ocean so you’re unlikely to encounter it while snorkeling in shallow waters. It is believed that it uses its snout to to search out electrical currents of other creatures it preys on. This species can grow to around three to four meters long.
Epizoanthus anemone with hermit crab (see left anemone). This species of anemone is always found with hermit crabs, although scientists are unsure of the symbiotic relationship between the two. It might be that the crab allows the anemone, which is actually a colony of several organisms, to move about and thus prevent it from becoming prey.
These creatures (which look like the piscine versions of The Fates) are called Spiky oreo and can grow up to 40 cm. They live close to the bottom between 200 and 1,200 meters and can reach hundreds of years old.
Atlantic football fish can grow up to 46 cm (females). Dotting the body of this fish are, well, dots or raised protrusions in the skin called “neuromasts” that allow the creature to detect the slightest movement in water, presumably telling them to either flee or feed.
In contrast to many of the species featured, these creatures are positively delicate! They look like they make great crystal jewelry. This is a colony of radiolarians. The delicate glass skeleton is formed by a colony of these unicellular organisms — the small white balls are the individuals. Deep-sea geologists were mainly fascinated by them because they had something to do with how deep-sea sediments are formed. But now, deep-sea biologists are also studying them, trying to determine how they reproduce, how they produce the spheres and how long they live. All still unanswered.
Unidentified Swimming Objects
I don’t have notes for the ones below, but thought I should post them anyway, because they’re fascinating — and scary! I forgot what they’re called, but I wouldn’t want any of them to be slithering towards me while I’m swimming!
The Deep: Illuminating the Mysteries of the Deep Sea will be at the ArtScience Museum until October 2015. The museum is open 10am–7pm everyday, including public holidays. Last admission is at 6pm. For this exhibition, I suggest allotting two hours to view everything.