Some of the world’s most amazing animals live in the ocean. From shrimp with claws tougher than carbon fibre to octopuses named after syrupy snacks, welcome to the weird world of animals surviving in the sea.
This fancy fighter sees in colours you can’t even imagine
Indian and pacific ocean
Some are smashers, some are spearers
Mantis shrimps kill their prey with lightning-fast blows from their specialised claws, but they are divided into two groups according to their choice of weapon. Spearers use pointed claws with barbs to stab, whereas smashers have a heavy club to crack shells and stun their prey
Its claws are tougher than carbon fibre
To withstand the huge impact of its blows, mantis shrimp claws consist of layers of fibres impregnated with minerals. Researchers have found this is tougher than existing designs of carbon fibre composite.
Each of its eyes has three pupils
Human eyes each form a single image and we need to combine the view from both eyes to give us binocular vision. The compound eyes of the mantis shrimp are divided into three regions, each with its own pupil. This lets it accurately judge distances, even when each eye is looking in a different direction. Also, the retina of the mantis shrimp has receptors for 12 colours.
The deep-sea flapjack octopus is as much a mystery as it is adorable
Pixar got it wrong with Pearl
Arguably the most well-known media representation of a flapjack octopus is Finding Nemo’s Pearl. But scientist Adam Summers, an associate professor of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences at the University of Washington, claims that in such shallow waters, she would be akin to “pink mush”. Most species of flapjack octopus are found at depths between 320 and 620 metres.
The name ‘flapjack’ does make sense, really!
In the UK, a flapjack is an oaty, syrupy square – which makes little sense when you think about the flat shape of the flapjack octopus’ tentacles – but in parts of the US, a flapjack is actually another name for a pancake. Why they did not call it a pancake octopus to save confusion, we don’t know!
As bright as their surroundings and expertly hidden, these bizarre little creatures have only recently been discovered
Asia and the Pacific
Masters of camouflage
These tiny horse-like critters have a sneaky way of staying hidden. Their bodies are covered in small tubercles to mimic the polyps of their coral hosts. They are so hard to spot that they were only discovered when scientists accidently captured them while studying gorgonian corals in 2003.
A fish that can’t swim
Because of their small size, they actually can’t swim very well and rely on their prehensile tails to stay rooted to the coral they spend their lives in. They do have a swim bladder and gills like other fish, but the relentless currents of the strong oceans are just too much for these miniature seahorses and staying anchored helps to avoid any Finding Nemo-type situations.
They feed very frequently as they don’t have a digestive system, and therefore nowhere to store food. They must eat continuously to get an adequate supply of nutrients. With no jaws, they use their snouts like straws, sucking food into their mouths.
Forget the abominable snowman, the yeti of the crab world really exists
It has silky claws
The yeti crab’s pincers are covered in a fluffy coat, but this isn’t to keep its arms warm in case it ventures beyond the toasty waters around the vents. The hairy filaments are thought to help break down the toxins in the bacteria it feeds on.
They’re ghost-white and blind
There is an obvious reason why the yeti crab, like most deep-ocean life, is so pale and completely blind: eyes have been made obsolete in the pitch darkness and for the same reason, so has any colouring.
They need no sunlight
Most life on Earth (including humans) derives its energy or food from the sun, whether directly as a plant photosynthesising sunlight, or indirectly by eating other plants and animals. Sunlight doesn’t reach the deep oceanic trenches so yeti crabs have evolved to survive by eating the bacteria that share their habitat by the hot vents. The hair on their claws may even function as a bacteria ‘garden’.
Image from www.flickr.com/photos/stuutje