About Deep-Sea Creatures
We all know that the ocean is home to many beautiful and mysterious creatures. Mysterious cannot begin to describe the fish living in the depths of the ocean. Imagine the kind of creature that lives thousands of feet underwater! Sunlight can't go much below 300 feet of water, so it is always dark. It is always cold. There is no plant life. This dark ocean layer is called the midnight zone or the aphotic zone which means "no light" in Greek.
Living in the midnight zone also means that these creatures are under a lot of pressure. Pressure deep in the ocean comes from the weight of so much water on top of them. That is heavy stuff!
Some of these creatures look very strange.
Some look very beautiful.
Some of these creatures look super scary! Such as...
One type of deep-sea creature is the Viperfish. It lives a mile below the surface of the ocean. That is about the length of 1000 grown-ups standing on each other’s shoulders. Viperfish have huge, bulging eyes. They need them to soak up as much light as they can to see. Viperfish are green, silver, or black. On their backs they have a long dorsal spine with a light at the end of it called a photophore.
They use it like a fishing pole. Other fish swim by and only see their glowing light. They say, “Oh yum, a glowing worm!” They swim in closer and closer to the Viperfish until…snap…too close. Instead of getting a glowing worm for dinner, the Viperfish makes a meal out of them. Viperfish are pretty tricky when it comes to finding a good meal.
The Fangtooth is another scary looking creature of the deep-sea. It would not be fun to run into one of these guys at night! These fish are pretty small however. They are only 6-inches long. The Fangtooth has a short body, but a very large head. It gets its name from the long, sharp teeth jutting out of its oversized mouth. Sometimes it is called “ogre fish” because it is so ugly. They have faces only a mother could love.
The Barbeled (Bar-belled) Dragonfish is a ferocious predator despite its small size. Like the Fangtooth, Dragonfish has an extra large head and mouth. It uses its long, sharp teeth for tearing flesh. This fish has a long piece of skin, called a barbel stuck to its jaw. The barbel juts out from its jaw and has a light at the end to trick its prey. The Dragonfish turns the light on and off and waves it back and forth to attract other fish. When a curious fish gets too close to the light, the Dragonfish snaps it up in its powerful jaws! It will eat that fish in one big gulp!
Where Can I See These Fish?
For most of us, we will only see them in pictures or on video. Very few people have ever seen these creatures in their natural deep-sea environment. The only way we do see them is with special cameras built for deep-sea exploration.
Since sunlight cannot travel very far underwater, deep-sea creatures live in almost total darkness. They have been able to adapt to darkness over millions of years of evolution.
Life at the Bottom
Living so far down in the ocean is hard. Not only is it cold and dark, but there is often not enough food to go around. Deep-sea creatures can go for months without eating. This means that when they do get a meal, they need to digest it very slowly. This helps them store energy for long periods of time.
Some deep-sea creatures like Giant Tube Worms have learned to live near hydrothermal (hi-dro-ther-mal) vents.
These are cracks in the ocean floor usually found near underwater volcanoes. The cracks create hotspots by warming up the water around them. These areas of the ocean depths can be extreamly hot. The water can be boiling hot near these vents!
Learning from Life in the Deep
People that study deep-sea animals are called Oceanographers. They are trying to unlock the mysteries of life in the deep-sea. Who knows, perhaps these creatures can teach us lessons that we can use in the future. Maybe someday humans will be living in deep space and some of the survival tricks we learn from deep-sea creatures will come in handy.