Scuba Diving is fascinating to me. The thought of diving into the deep sea to look at the colorful underwater world Disney introduced me to is something I think I’d like to try. The reality, however, is not all underwater creatures are sweet like the Little Mermaid or beautiful like the fish in Finding Nemo. Some things that live in the deep sea are downright horrifying. Scary fish with names like vampire squid, frilled shark and giant isopod inhabit those waters. Here are 14 of the most terrifying sea creatures swimming in the ocean’s depths. I hope you never run into any of them.
1.The Great White Shark
There couldn’t be a list of the scariest fish in the ocean without the great white shark being the first to appear. Among marine mammals, the great white is one of the most commonly known scary fish, thanks to author Peter Benchley’s bestseller, Jaws. Steven Spielberg brought more attention to the big shark’s massive mouth and razor-sharp teeth when he produced the film version of the novel. Despite all the scare tactics created by clever theatrics, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the risk of humans being attacked by a great white or any other species of shark is actually very low. According to experts, the shark’s food chain does not include humans. More often it is a case of the shark being blamed for a human being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Great whites are among the strongest predators in the oceans. They are opportunistic feeders that eat other fish, seals, or dolphins. No humans appear on the menu. Even so, before I go swimming in the ocean, I plan to check the shark reports.
2.The Vampire Squid
Okay, with a name like vampire squid, you know this creature is scary. It’s not a squid, and it’s not a vampire. So what is it? Its scientific name is Vampyroteuthis infernalis, which literally translates to vampire squid from hell. This terrifying creature is a cantaloupe sized beast with eight arms and two tentacles. It lives in the darkest, deep part of the ocean where it feeds on plants and animal debris from above. The vampire squid is smaller than its distant relatives, and it often becomes prey for larger predators. To protect itself, the vampire squid expels bioluminescent bodily fluids that light up the surrounding area. The scariest thing about the vampire squid is its defense mechanism of spreading its arms wide to reveal the caped webbing that attaches them. This makes it appear much larger and foreboding than it actually is.
The sad looking blobfish actually won a contest to be named the ugliest fish in the world. This poor little guy is just a mass of gelatinous gunk with a big nose and downward turned mouth. Not only is he flabby, this little fish is pretty lazy. He lives in the deep sea off Australia’s coast, at about 4000 ft. below the surface. He swims just enough to be off the bottom a bit, and he eats whatever drops directly in front of his mouth. The blobfish can’t help but be an ugly fish. He lives so deep in the ocean that water pressure has transformed him into a potato-sized glob of gelatin. If he had bones, he would be crushed.
The anglerfish is one of the most interesting species in the deep water of the oceans. There are many varieties of angler fish, from red fishlike ones to puffy, spongelike creatures. The unique thing about this scary fish is the built-in fishing rod attached to its head. Only the female angler fish has this bioluminescent lure protruding in front of her face. The shape and size of the lure changes with the species, but one thing is consistent. The angler fish uses this lure on her head to entice unsuspecting prey that swim toward the light. When they get close enough, the angler fish opens her huge mouth, revealing rows of curved fangs that are inescapable.
5.The Gulper Eel
The gulper eel looks like something out of science fiction, a strange cross between a snake and a pelican. This terrifying deep sea monster is disgusting looking. It has a small, rounded body, a long tapered tail about three feet in length, and a massive mouth with hinged jaws that can open so wide the gulper eel can eat an animal larger than itself. Even though its pelican like pouch can hold large prey, the gulper eel doesn’t prefer to eat fish. He would rather eat shrimp, squid, and crustaceans from the ocean floor. Even though he has a big mouth, the gulper eel has small, sharp teeth designed for crunching through the shells of crabs, oysters, and other bottom-dwelling species.
Of course, we had to add another shark to this list because sharks are scary animals. The bull shark is the most aggressive type, according to experts. It is also the one most commonly involved in attacks on humans. Bull sharks like to swim and hunt in the shallow, tropical waters of ocean beaches around the world-the same water you and I like to swim in. While people aren’t part of their natural diet, the bull shark hunts by sound and scent. They can smell one drop of blood from a mile away. If something is swimming right where the bull shark is hunting, he will not take the time to decide what species it is. Bull shark prey includes other fish, dolphins, porpoises, turtles, squid, other sharks- basically any marine animals. Bull sharks are especially deadly because of their multiple rows of sharp teeth, their large jaws and strong bite.
7.The Sarcastic Fringehead
The sarcastic fringehead- sounds like a comedian, doesn’t it? Actually, the sarcastic fringehead is a tiny little fish with a bad attitude. This small fish lives in deep underwater tubes and tunnels left over from other species, and has even been found in discarded soda cans or bottles. Reaching just 3-8 inches in length, this species wouldn’t make you think of something scary. Its brown or grey body has colorful dots of red or green and its bulbous eyes make it look like a cute cartoon fish. When it opens its mouth, though, a terrifying transformation takes place. Rather than opening his mouth medially, like most creatures, this spooky species has jaws that open laterally, or out to the sides. Suddenly, this cute fish becomes one of the scary fish in the ocean. The fringehead’s mouth is so strong he uses it in battle during mating season. Nicknamed kissing fighters, two males engage in mouth to mouth combat to win the attention of a female mate.
8.The Goblin Shark
If you are looking for something truly terrifying, the goblin shark is so nasty it will give you bad dreams. It is unlike any other species in the deep sea. This scary creature is related to species that inhabited the world over 100 million years ago, thus earning it the nickname “living fossil”. The goblin shark is a soft-skinned, pinkish-grey creature that is somewhat translucent. Its blood vessels are clearly visible beneath its skin. Goblin sharks have protruding jaws similar to a crocodile, and a flattened, elongated knife-like nose that extends another foot or so beyond the upper jaw. It has almost human-looking eyes located on either side of its head. Like other shark species, this living fossil has 30 to 50 rows of sharp teeth of varying sizes. The goblin shark spends its time swimming in the deep recesses of the ocean in search of food. They eat many different species of bottom dwelling fish, shrimp, and crustaceans.
9.The Mantis Shrimp
It might seem strange to put a tiny creature like a shrimp on a list of most terrifying fish in the ocean, but the mighty mantis shrimp is unlike his docile cousins. This brightly colored creature won’t bite you. As a matter of fact, you probably won’t even realize you are swimming in his territory. Humans are actually one of the greatest threats to this tiny underwater terror. Found in the deep, warm water between Africa and Hawaii, the tiny mantis shrimp is one of the most colorful residents of the coral reef. They are also one of the strongest. Mantis shrimp have adapted to fight off predators by growing massive strong claws that can crack aquarium glass or punch a hole in a crab’s shell. The mantis shrimp is not a shrimp at all, but is a delicacy in some cultures. They have also become popular with science and research labs after it was discovered that the compound structure of the mantis shrimp’s eyes can detect differences in light and dark that indicate the presence of cancer.
The lamprey eel is a snake-like creature with a circular mouth full of curved teeth. These creatures survive by latching onto their prey and sucking their blood. The result is often death of the host. This invasive species is no longer a habitat of the oceans, as sea lamprey have been discovered in inland waterways in Florida, New York, Michigan, parts of Europe and the Mediterranean beaches. These things remind me of giant leeches. SCARY!
What do you think of when you hear the word piranha? Teeth, thousands of tiny, spiky, sharp teeth that can tear flesh and reduce a whole creature to only bones in a few minutes. It’s not science fiction. A swarming school of piranha can do exactly that, as long as it is a small creature. No matter what the horror movies have led you to believe, piranha don’t attack humans, usually. There have been reports of bites and even a few deaths from blood loss or infection, but being eaten alive by piranha hiding beneath the surface of the Nile River is just a fictional story. The fish are territorial and vicious. They have existed for over 25 million years in the waters of Africa and South America. While they will prey on an already deceased animal and possibly eat the whole thing, piranha are not likely to attack larger creatures. Mostly, they feed on other fish. In parts of South America you are more likely to see a piranha fish hanging from a fishing rod, because the locals like to eat them.
The Dorada is a toothy freshwater hunter that lives in the rivers of northern Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay. It is completely golden in color and sports an impressive array of teeth. It crashes through schools of baitfish chomping as it goes. It is a popular target for fly fishermen and women who travel to remote parts of these countries in search of the mighty dorado.
As if one vampire fish with fangs wasn’t enough, now we add another one to the list. The payara fish, or vampire tetra, is a four-foot long sea creature with six-inch long, super-sharp fangs. These long silver fish live in the Amazon. That’s good, I will probably never meet one. If you imagine a saber-toothed tiger in fish form, you’ll get a pretty good idea about these fish. Their scary teeth are just one thing that identifies them. The payara fish has a dark coloration on the edges of the fins and tail. They eat anything living that crosses their path, from shrimp and worms to mackeral. While attacks on humans are rare, they have happened. One cool thing about this carnivorous fish- it loves to eat piranha.
A fish that can eat a crocodile is something to be afraid of. The Goliath Tigerfish has been known to do just that. With 32 surgically sharp teeth and a double hinged jaw that can open wide enough to eat creatures much larger than itself, the tigerfish is scary. Their life span in the Congo region of Africa can be 30 or 40 years and they can reach 150 pounds of more. Anglers come from all over the world to fish for these giants and they say catching one is unlike any experience they ever had. Even though they are massive, these fish are fast and agile, often leaping out of the water to try to shake a hook. While I love to catch fish, I think I’ll stick with something a little less scary.
The science of the underwater world is fascinating, full of life and color. The ocean houses all kinds of fish and each has its purpose. Some fish use colors or body appendages to attract prey. Others just open up their mouth and chomp down on whatever is close by. Some are hideous looking and live in the dark, like the goblin shark. Some use terrifying teeth to destroy flesh while others suck blood. As science allows for more ocean exploration, more unique sea creatures and scary sea monsters will probably be found in the deep dark regions beneath the oceans.