We don’t need to play a game like Subnautica to know for a fact that the ocean is this vast unexplored section of our planet, filled with some really scary, and some really beautiful creatures… they’re mostly scary though. And 2017 has brought us some really crazy creatures, alive or fossilised, and here they are:
1. This Bucktoothed ghost shark
Discovered near South Africa, this new species of sharks have set records. At nearly 3ft in length, the creature is the second-largest species of ghost shark ever discovered, according to researchers at the Pacific Shark Research Centre, at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories in California. This Hydrolagus erithacus marked the 50th recorded species of ghost shark and the 3rd that fits into the the Hydrolagus genus a.k.a the “water rabbit”. Researchers also noted that the ghost sharks are not actually sharks at all, but rather large cartilaginous fish related to both sharks and rays. Unlike actual sharks, these ‘sharks’ propel themselves with their large pectoral fins rather than their tails.
The species, Hydrolagus erithacus, marked the 50th recorded species of ghost shark and the third that fits into the genus Hydrolagus, which means “water rabbit.” While H. erithacus is decidedly more shark than rabbit, researchers noted that ghost sharks are not actually sharks at all. Rather, they are large, cartilaginous fish related to both sharks and rays. Unlike true sharks, ghost sharks (also known as chimaeras or ratfish) propel themselves with their large pectoral fins, rather than their tails.
2. This Cannibal corpse worm
In February, fossilised jaws of a giant marine worm (polychaete) called the Bobbit worm were discovered near the town of Moosonee, on Hudson Bay, Ontario, Canada. This granddaddy of all marine worms lived some 400 million years ago – becoming the world’s oldest worm. Its massive jaws shows that it likely stretched more than 3ft wide and because of its formidable size, researchers named it Websteroprion armstrongi in honour of Cannibal Corpse’s bassist, Alex Webster, who is also known as a “giant” of a bass player. According to study leader Mats Eriksson, of Lund University in Sweden, “The new species demonstrates a unique case of polychaete gigantism in the Palaeozoic era.”
3. This “Cosmic” jellyfish
Spotted near a previously unexplored seamount roughly 9,800ft below sea level in a remote region of the Pacific Ocean near the American Samoa is this ethereal invertebrate which looks like a UFO and may be a brand-new species of jellyfish.
It’s also pretty hard to tell as it was only observed via a remotely operated underwater vehible during a deep-dive expedition by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But if they manage to get this sea creature, studying it could help reveal its origins and a lot more, according to Michael Ford, a conservation biologist within NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Centre, “As we collect more observations like this one, we can begin to get a clearer picture of life in the midwater — perhaps the largest biome on the planet,”
Shipworms have been making life harder for sailors since 412 B.C., when ancient records show complaints about these pests infesting and ruining entire boats. However this giant species of shipworm, Kuphus polythalamia, have remained a mystery for hundreds of years… until April. Researchers have collected 5 giant shipworms of the species from a shallow bay in the Philippines. This shipworm can measure up to 5ft in length and lives facedown in marine mud, surrounding itself in hard tubular shells that look like elephant tusks. Margo Hawgood, a research professor in medicinal chemistry at the University of Utah College of Pharmacy, likens the discovery to spotting “a unicorn for marine biologists.”
Scientists were on a research vessel, trawling for fish near eastern Australia when they accidentally discovered this fang-faced monster that has the body of an eel, the face of a lizard, and an impressive reputation as the world’s deepest-living predator. The Bathysaurus ferox (“fierce deep-sea lizard”) has an MO of burying itself on the deep seafloor, up to 8200ft below the water’s surface, where it will dart out of the seafloor and snatch up unsuspecting prey. Oh! And it’s also a hermaphrodite (it has both ovarian and testicular tissues in its reproductive organs), which means that it can mate with ANY other B. ferox it meets, giving the species a survival advantage.
When you imagine the legendary Loch Ness monster, you probably imagine something that looks like that Pokemon, the Lapras. But in August 2017, researchers have presented their findings of a 76-million-year-old plesiosaur skeleton recovered from Alberta, Canada. This river-dwelling reptilian would have been the size of a car, measuring up to 16ft long when it was alive. However, as large as this sounds, the plesiosaur studied was likely to not even be fully grown when it died and was considered pretty small compared to its ocean-dwelling plesiosaur cousins which are thought to be up to 50ft long.
7. This “Kleptopredator” sea slug with a vicious way of feeding
This bottom-dwelling sea slug, Cratena peregrina, was known to dine on polyps, however researchers determined this year that the slug prefers to chow down on polyps that have just finished eating dinner. This behaviour is known as kleptopredation a.k.a stealing a predator’s feast by swallowing up the predator and its prey at the same time which will provide it with enough plankton to account for about half of its diet.
Whilst trawling near Portugal, deep-sea fishers accidentally hauled up something unique. Scientists aboard identified the strange catch as the Chlamydoselachus anguineus, a frilled-tooth shark and a species that has changed so little over the past 80 million years that researchers call it a “living fossil”. It holds 300 three-pointed teeth and stretches more than 5ft long, using their impressive jaws to take down prey which includes fish, squid and other sharks. Though the one capture had died, it still provided researchers an exciting opportunity to study it. It is also rarely seen as it can swim as deep as 4600ft below the surface.
Header image source from here.