Creatures of the Deep Ocean
The depths of the ocean are almost as much of a mystery to us as outer-space, and they contain creatures reminiscent of anything you'd see in a science fiction horror film. It's a world with very little light, and with pressure so extreme it could crush a human being in seconds.
So the denizens of this plane have evolved to thrive in the darkness, and developed physical forms capable of withstanding the weight. These forms may appear strange – nightmarish even - to human perception; but then, we are accustomed to a world of sunlight.
Here are some examples of life-forms found in deepest parts of the ocean:
Named for its snake-like shape, the Viperfish has fangs that are too big for its mouth, and that curve upwards towards it eyes instead of down - granting it a particularly mean appearance. It also has an organ capable of biologically emitting light - an invaluable resource in this dark place. Like most predators, its special powers are geared towards one purpose - catching food.
Unsuspecting prey naturally gravitate towards the light flickering in the darkness, unable to see the terror lurking motionless behind it. Once within range, the Viperfish attacks by launching itself like a projectile towards its victim; the vertebrae behind its head acting as a shock-absorber to sustain the force of the impact.
The Vampire Squid has the largest eyes relative to its body-size of any creature on Earth. Its body is covered in light-producing organs, over which it has such perfect control that it can produce what amounts to an underwater neon light show.
This display serves to disorient predators, and perhaps even prey as well; though research suggests that the Vampire Squid feeds primarily on the dead organic matter that drifts down from above.
Its unique qualities compared to other species of squid serve to demonstrate the ways in which it has adapted perfectly to its environment. Most species are able to change their colour, and defend themselves against predators by spraying an ink-like substance; but since colour is irrelevant in a place with very little light, the Vampire Squid sprays a glowing mucus instead, and substitutes colour-change with bio-luminescence.
Officially known as 'Scotoplanes', they are referred to as Sea Pigs because of their plump, pink bodies; though some feel that “slugs of the sea” would be a more apt title.
“Sea Cow” is another common nickname; since the tubes on the tops of their bodies resemble cattle horns, and they roam the ocean floor “grazing” on sand (their digestive processes are capable of extracting the nutrients). Researchers are unsure how they reproduce; though they clearly do so in great numbers, since they usually form groups numbering between 300 and 600.
The Goblin Shark has an especially intimidating appearance, even relative to other sharks; and since it rarely emerges from the deep sea, it remains one of the more mysterious shark species. The Japanese fishermen who discovered it named it after the Tengu – the trickster spirits of Japanese folklore.
Believed to be a survivor of the prehistoric age, it may even have inhabited the same waters as the Megalodon - the legendary gargantuan Great White of the Cenozoic Era (66 to 0 million years ago).
The Giant Squid is the largest known invertebrate, with the largest eyes of any animal on Earth. 13 meter long Giant Squid have been recorded; 18 meter long specimens have been rumoured; and tales of even larger varieties dwelling in the deeps have been the subject of folklore for centuries.
But though Giant Squid grow quickly, they have a life-expectancy of about five years. They are rarely sighted, and what knowledge there is has mostly been gleaned from specimens that have washed up on beaches around the world, or been caught in trawling nets. Footage of the Giant Squid in its natural habitat was aired for the very first time in 2013.
In 1965, a Soviet whaler reported witnessing a duel between a Giant Squid and a 40 ton Sperm Whale. The struggle supposedly ended with the squid strangling its opponent to death while having its own head bitten off in the process.
Another report - this one from the 1930's - tells of a Giant Squid attacking a Norwegian ship (probably mistaking it for a whale). Its attempts to grab onto the the vessel's steel surface proved unsuccessful, and it ended up slipping off into the propellers.
Legends of gargantuan squid lurking in the ocean's depths may be nothing more than exaggeration; but with so little yet known of this alien world, such tales will continue to capture the imagination.