What Is The Weirdest Animal In The Ocean? The Top 10 Bizarre Deep Sea Creatures
What is the weirdest animal in the ocean? The answer to this question might go on indefinitely. Each year, researchers unveil captivating footage of alien-like animals and new species lurking in the deep sea, and this year is no exception. These findings provide valuable clues about the lives of some of the Earth's most elusive and enigmatic inhabitants.
Now, dive into the ocean's mysteries and explore the top 10 weirdest deep-sea creatures we’ve seen that captured our fascination in 2023, from majestic white whales and colossal squids to pint-sized penguins and mesmerizing swarms of jellyfish. Let's find the answer to the question “What is the weirdest animal in the ocean?”
#1. Blood-Red Jellyfish
In a remarkable underwater discovery, researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) unveiled a new species of blood-red jellyfish.
This mysterious creature, displaying a rich, dark red hue, is believed to belong to the Poralia genus, as suggested by the experts. The jellyfish was initially identified on July 28 and observed by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) at a depth of approximately 2,300 feet (700 meters) near Newport, Rhode Island.
The deep-sea exploration also revealed an array of other fascinating marine life, including cnidarians, ctenophores, crustaceans, and Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes).
Many deep-sea inhabitants have developed a vivid red coloration, providing them with a camouflage advantage in the absence of red light, which doesn't penetrate the depths of the ocean.
This newly discovered blood-red jellyfish adds another captivating chapter to the mysteries of the ocean's depths.
#2. Squid Mom Carries Pearl-Like Eggs
In a mesmerizing glimpse into the mysteries of the deep sea, researchers from MBARI (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute) captured incredibly rare footage of a squid mom cradling a string of glimmering, pearl-like eggs in her arms.
The deep-sea squid, belonging to an unidentified species within the Bathyteuthis genus, was observed by an ROV approximately 56 miles (90 kilometers) off the California coast at a depth of 4,560 feet (1,390 meters).
Typically, squid moms don't engage in brooding, opting to release their eggs on the seafloor or in gelatinous clusters. Brooding, while potentially enhancing the eggs' chances of hatching, exposes the mother to increased predation risk, making this behavior exceptionally rare.
Although the protective mother may seem large compared to her eggs, her mantle—housing the squid's major organs—can only reach a maximum length of 3 inches (7.5 centimeters).
This remarkable footage offers a unique glimpse into the rarely witnessed parenting behavior of deep-sea squid.
#3. Elusive Glass Octopus
Researchers from the Schmidt Ocean Institute (SOI) unveiled footage of the elusive glass octopus (Vitreledonella Richards) off the remote Phoenix Islands, situated more than 3,200 miles (5,100 km) northeast of Sydney, Australia.
The translucent cephalopod made its debut during a 34-day expedition of the Central Pacific Ocean aboard the SOI's research vessel Falkor. Scientists aboard used the ROV SuBastian, which spent a total of 182 hours surveying the seafloor, to spot this captivating creature.
Similar to other "glass" inhabitants, such as glass frogs and specific comb jellies, glass octopuses exhibit nearly complete transparency, with only their cylindrical eyes, optic nerve, and digestive tract revealing any opacity.
#4. 'Emperor Dumbo'
In a stroke of luck, researchers stumbled upon a charming new species of Dumbo octopus, affectionately named "Emperor Dumbo." The delightful discovery unfolded in 2016 during an expedition of the Aleutian Islands in the Bering Sea, led by the German research vessel Sonne.
This adorable creature, identified as Grimpteuthis imperator, was unexpectedly brought to the surface in a net.
Dumbo octopuses are characterized by the umbrella-like webbing connecting their tentacles and whimsically ear-like fins, reminiscent of the famous elephant ears from Disney's Dumbo.
The researchers, thrilled by this serendipitous find, marveled at the intact creature that graced the ocean's surface.
#5. Creepy "Smiling" Shark
In a surprising twist, a fisherman off the coast of Australia was taken aback when they reeled in a mysterious deep-sea shark. This enigmatic creature sported bulging eyes, rough sandpaper-like skin, a large pointed snout, and a rather unsettling, human-like smile.
The eerie specimen, hauled up from approximately 2,130 feet (650 m) below the surface, left experts puzzled about its exact species. Various guesses were thrown into the mix, including the cookie-cutter shark, goblin shark, lantern shark, endeavor dogfish, kitefin shark, and roughskin dogfish.
However, many shark specialists believe the unsettling creature to be a gulper shark, adding an extra layer to its mystique.
#6. Giant Phantom Jellyfish
MBARI recently shared a captivating video featuring a colossal phantom jellyfish (Stygiomedusa gigantea).
Operating an ROV at a depth of 3,200 feet (975 m) in Monterey Bay,California, scientists stumbled upon this majestic jellyfish, showcasing a 3.3-foot-wide (1 m) bell and 33-foot-long (10 m) ribbon-like arms.
The phantom jellyfish remains a mystery, but researchers speculate that it employs its arms, resembling loose scarves, to trap unsuspecting prey and reel them in towards its mouth. Additionally, the creature navigates the abyss using periodic pulses from its softly glowing bell.
This elusive giant was first documented in 1899 and has made only around 100 appearances since then, offering a rare glimpse into the depths of every major ocean, excluding the Arctic.
#7. Alien "Shopping Bag"
In the deep-sea mysteries of Hawaii, a peculiar creature resembling a floating plastic bag with luminous Cheeto-like insides was discovered. Researchers aboard Nautilus Live spotted this drifting oddity using an ROV at a depth of 7,221 feet (2,201 m) in the Marine National Monument southeast of Honolulu.
Surprisingly, the creature is a type of sea cucumber from the Elpidiidae family, feasting on marine snow cascading to the seafloor. The transparent marvel boasts a fin-like extension, aiding it in short swims across the ocean floor, as witnessed during the encounter.
Inside the sea cucumber, vibrant orange tubes house its intestines, though the reason for their vivid color remains a mystery.
#8. Mysterious Blue Goo
In the depths surrounding St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, scientists stumbled upon perplexing gooey creatures that left them puzzled.
Researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) utilized an ROV to explore the ocean floor and live-streamed the dive for online viewers.
The enigmatic blobs were discovered resting motionless on the ocean bottom, ranging from depths of 1,335 to 2,005 feet (407 to 611 m).
Despite lively discussions during the live stream, researchers couldn't agree on their identity. Suggestions like soft corals and sea sponges were thrown around, but a unanimous answer remained elusive. "I can tell you it's not a rock, but that's as far as I can go," quipped one researcher.
#9. Photobombing Squid
Imagine mapping the seafloor in the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea, aiming to capture the remnants of a shipwreck from 2011, and suddenly, your footage is hijacked by a photobombing superstar—enter the purpleback flying squid (Sthenoteuthis oualaniensis).
The surprise guest made its grand appearance as the researchers' remotely operated vehicle (ROV) explored the underwater scene at a depth of approximately 2,788 feet (850 m).
The scientists, part of the OceanX team, were initially focusing on the shipwreck, but this majestic squid stole the spotlight with its vibrant purple hue and impressive body length of about 6 feet (2 m), reaching the species' maximum size.
It was an unexpected encounter that left the researchers in awe of the magnificent sea creature.
#10. White Humpback Whale
In the coastal waters of Australia, a local kayaker made an extraordinary discovery—an immense 33-foot-long humpback whale corpse.
What set this marine giant apart was its astonishing appearance—its body was not the typical dark hue of its species but instead "pure white," resembling a majestic marble statue.
Despite its rare coloration, experts are inclined to believe that albinism, a genetic condition causing the absence of skin pigment, wasn't the culprit, as the whale displayed patches of dark skin.
A more plausible explanation is leucism, a genetic condition similar to albinism that affects the pigmentation of individual cells and results in patchy discoloration.
Another fascinating encounter with a potentially leucistic white humpback occurred earlier in the year when it was spotted swimming alongside dolphins in New South Wales, Australia.
What is the weirdest animal in the ocean? Maybe after looking at all the strange creatures in the ocean in 2023 that we listed, you have your own answer, right?
Every year, researchers continue to provide unprecedented insights into the hidden world beneath the waves, offering glimpses of alien-like beings that call the deep sea home. From blood-red jellyfish to mesmerizing glass octopuses, each revelation unveils the extraordinary diversity of marine life.