All (Submerged) Creatures Big and Small: A Census Catalogues the World's Marine Species [Slide Show]
Scientists are creating a massive global database of marine creatures, revealing tremendous biodiversity ranging from the ocean's shallows to its cold, dark depths
Credits: Yoshihiro FUJIWARA/JAMSTEC
Osedax roseus, sometimes endearingly referred to as "zombie worm," was devouring the bones of a decaying whale when it was discovered off the California coast on the Monterey Bay seabed. These worms are only one to two centimeters long and are found at depths around 3,000 meters. Zombie worms have an extraordinary reproductive system: A male worm resides inside the female. He fertilizes her eggs before they are released into the water. Yoshihiro FUJIWARA/JAMSTEC
This deep-sea atolla jellyfish ( Atolla wyvillei) is widely distributed throughout the world and can be found undulating 500 to 1,500 meters down. When threatened by predators it creates a stunning, bioluminescent ring of blue light referred to as an "alarm" response. Scientists think the jellyfish uses this display to attract prey as well as help repel predators.
COOPER OF THE SEA This common crustacean,
Phronima sedentaria, is only approximately 2.5 centimeters long and is typically found swimming in equatorial waters at depths of up to 1,000 meters. It is sometimes called "cooper of the sea" after the barrellike "house" it travels in—this transparent shell is fashioned out of the remains of a gelatinous zooplankton, which also serves as a food source for P. sedentaria. H. Bahena (photographer); Felder, D. L. and Camp, D. K. (editors) 2009. "Gulf of Mexico—Origins, Waters, and Biota". Volume 1. Biodiversity. Texas A&M Press, College Station, Tex.
VENUS FLYTRAP ANEMONE Similar to its terrestrial namesake, the Venus flytrap anemone (
Actinoscyphia saginata) quickly clamps down upon prey that unwittingly drifts close to the anemone's stinging tentacles. This anemone was photographed in the Gulf of Mexico at a depth of 1,500 meters. I. MacDonald (photographer); Felder, D. L. and Camp, D. K. (editors) 2009. "Gulf of Mexico—Origins, Waters, and Biota". Volume 1. Biodiversity. Texas A&M Press, College Station, Tex. Advertisement
GIANT CARIBBEAN ANEMONE The Giant Caribbean Anemone (
Condylactis gigantea) is frequently found in the shallow waters of its eponymous sea, attached to rocks or other hard surfaces through an adhesive foot. It is the largest anemone in U.S. Atlantic tropical waters, approaching 12 centimeters in diameter. Its mouth is surrounded by numerous stinging tentacles, which release a neurotoxin that can stun prey and help repel predators. Eduardo Klein
BEARDED FIREWORM The bearded fireworm (
Hermodice carunculata) has hollow, venom-filled bristles used for defense. If the worm is handled the bristles can easily penetrate the skin and break off, producing an intense burning sensation. These flattened, segmented worms typically reach seven to 10 centimeters in length. They are common in the tropical reefs of the western Atlantic, at depths of up to 60 meters. Eduardo Klein
SPONGE BRITTLE STAR
These nocturnal echinoderms, common in the Caribbean and off the coasts of Florida and the Bahamas, are called sponge brittle stars ( Ophiothrix suensonii). These stars are typically five to eight centimeters in size and so-named because they are commonly found living on sponges. Although they resemble starfish, sponge brittle stars can move much more quickly with the assistance of their highly mobile arms. These creatures reside at depths of six to 60 meters.
DRAGONFISH This ferocious-looking predator inhabits the deep sea (up to 1,500 meters) in tropical regions. Despite a fierce appearance, dragonfish typically measure only 15 centimeters in length. Dragonfish are bioluminescent (capable of producing light through a chemical process), and are thought to use this light in the inky waters to attract prey or possibly to signal mates.
Julian Finn, Museum Victoria Advertisement Advertisement