As humans, we cannot live without adequate sunlight and oxygen that come with living above sea level. The ocean is a vast expanse of mysterious life and undiscovered phenomena that house creatures which thrive in conditions that would burst human beings like party balloons, unable to withstand the pressure. At depths of up to 3000 metres one can find the elusive species no one can even imagine exist. Here are some creatures that have captured researchers, biologists and human beings’ attention and given us an insight into a world beyond our imaginations.
Vampire squid (Vampyroteuthis infernalis)
The vampire squid is a deep sea octopus and the last of its genus, the Vampyromorphida. It likes temperate waters around the world and reaches a maximum length of 30cm. Even though its name suggest something fearful, this squid is shy like most of its species. The name comes from its red eyes and the dark, cloak like webbing that covers its body. The vampire squid thrives in the darkness of the deep sea as it possesses its own light. Its body is covered with light-producing photophores that can be turned on and off through a process called bioluminescence. When threatened it will light up at various points of its body, confusing predators and making a hasty escape. The vampire squid happily inhabits ocean depths of 600-900 metres or more, with no light and oxygen levels as low as 3 %!
Japanese spider crab (Macrocheira kaempferi)
This crab has the honour of having the largest leg span of any arthropod –3 metres from claw to claw. This species can grow to 20 cm in width and up to 19 kg in weight. If you don’t spot them due to their larger than average size, their shells are a vivid orange with white spots. Even though they may look fierce, Japanese’s spider crabs, like the squid, are gentle creatures only angered when provoked. These crabs are found mainly off the southern coasts of the Japanese island, Honshū, and in regions in Taiwan. They prefer vents and holes to hide in at depths between 50-600 metres. They live most of their lives at this depth foraging for plants or animals to eat until they migrate to breed, coming closer to the water’s surface.
Frilled shark (Chlamydoselachus anguineus)
With its elongated body, this shark resembles an eel or serpent more than a shark. Even though it looks worm-like, its snout and broad head lead to a long, flexible jaw and a mouth filled with rows of sharp teeth –a whopping 300 in total. Its odd features are a result of it being extremely ancient with scientists even calling it a “living fossil.” These sharks are physically different from their modern day relatives, living deeper below the surface and using their lithe snake-like bodies to lunge and attack with jaws that are in line with their snout. As ugly and as predatory as they may be, the chances of seeing a frilled shark are slim to none for us regular folk; these sharks live at 50-200 metres deep and one has even been found at 1570 metres.
Luckily there are ways to enjoy the ocean that don’t require us to enter submarines or deep sea dive. Shark cage diving with great whites or smaller sharks can be a wonderful way to explore the ocean.