Creatures of the Deep

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Creatures of the Deep

Post  Ashley on Wed Mar 23, 2011 11:26 am

There may not seem like is a lot of life down in the deep depths of the ocean, but in fact there is. I will tell you about a few of these creatures.

One of my favorite eels and one of the deep sea eels is called a Gulper Eel.
(Credits/ownership go to National Geographic):

Also known as the Pelican Eel, it lives in depths ranging from 500 to 6,000 feet. Gulper Eels have extremely large mouths and have a long, thin body drifting beneath it that can be 6 feet long. Gulper Eels are usually black or dark green in color and sometimes has a white line or groove on either side of the dorsal fin. Having such a large mouth can be useful in such a dark section of the world.
Gulper eels will usually eat anything they can find, for food is rare. It's eyes are extremely tiny, and so are its fins. The eel uses its long tail for movement. The end of the tail is tipped with a light-producing organ known as a photophore. The light it gives off from the photophore is pink in color with the occasional red. Since the eel's body is not built for chasing prey, It is believed that the eel uses this light as a fishing lure to attract fish and other creatures close to its enormous mouth. When the prey is in range, the eel lunges and snaps is up in its gigantic mouth. In spite of its gigantic mouth, it is believed that the gulper eel's diet consists mainly of small crustaceans. Since the eel has very tiny teeth, it probably does not eat large fish on a regular basis. The large mouth may be an adaptation to allow the eel to eat a wider variety of prey when food is scarce. It can also be used like a large net. The eel can swim into a large groups of shrimp or other crustaceans with its mouth wide open, scooping them up as it goes. The gulper eel is also known to feed on squid and other small invertebrates. When the eel gulps its prey into its massive jaws, it also takes in a large amount of water, which is then slowly expelled through its gill slits. Gulper eels themselves are preyed upon by lancet fish and other deep sea predators.
Because of the extreme depths at which it lives, most of what we know about the gulper eel comes from specimens that are inadvertently caught in deep sea fishing nets.


Six-gill Shark



Six-gill sharks are pretty much living fossils. Their appearance hasn't changed for millions of years. It is related to today's dogfish and Greenland shark, although it is much more closely related to species found only in fossils. Some of the sixgill shark's relatives date back over 200 million years.They live in depths of 1,500 to 6,000 feet and are pretty large for a deep sea dwelling creature, about 12-18 feet long. Sometimes called the cow or mud shark, Six-gill sharks live in tropical and temperate regions. Six-gills get their name from the fact that they have six gill slits instead of five, unlike most sharks. The sixgill shark has a heavy, powerful body with a round, blunt snout. In fact, it is sometimes referred to as the bluntnose sixgill shark. One of its most distinguishing characteristics is the fact that it has only one dorsal fin, which is located on the back of its body near the tail. Most other sharks have a pronounced dorsal fin on their backs near the center of their bodies. The sixgill ranges in color from tan or brown to gray or even black. The females are generally larger than the males. Although sixgill sharks are usually slow and sluggish, their body structure allows them to attain high bursts of speed when chasing and catching their prey. They are carnivorous predators, feeding mostly on squids, crustaceans, fish, and rays, and some marine mammals. These sharks spend most of their time in deep water during the day. At night, they undertake vertical migrations up to shallower waters to feed. However, they are not very dangerous sharks, and will not attack people or divers unless they are provoked. Six-gill sharks have an average life span of about 80 years! Sixgill sharks have the widest distribution of all sharks, except for possibly the great white. Because of their low reproductive rate, they can easily be overfished. This has achieved them a near-threatened status on the global list of endangered species. But because we know so little about their populations, many scientists believe they could be in even more danger of extinction.





Atlantic Hagfish




Atlantic Hagfish are also known as slime eels and only range in length 16 to 32 inches long. They live anywhere in the depths down to 4,000 feet, so they're basically worldwide. Hagfish are called slime eels, though they are not eels at all. As a defense, when it feels threatened it will discharge a slime-y substance and/or fill its nostrils with slime and sneeze it out. The Atlantic hagfish has been called the nastiest and most disgusting little creature in the sea. Over 60 different species are known to science. There is actually some debate among researchers as to whether the hagfish is really a fish. It is more closely related to some primitive creatures such as the lampreys. The hagfish is quite an odd creature. The hagfish is a scaleless fish with soft skin and thick barbels on the end of its mouth. Hagfish have a partial skull but no vertebrae, so they cannot technically be classified as vertebrates. They have no jaws and no bones. Their skeleton is made up entirely of cartilage. They have very poorly developed eyes located just under the skin and are almost blind. They do, however have finely developed senses of smell and touch which help them find food in the darkness of the deep sea. There are four small sensing tentacles near their mouth. They also have between 5 and 15 pairs of gills. Their colors can range from pink to brown to various shades of gray. Hagfish have a very primitive circulatory system that contains four hearts. One heart, known as the brachial heart, serves as the main pump, while the other three hearts serve as accessory pumps. The hagfish is a true monster of the deep. To see why, one only has to examine its greusome feeding habits. A hagfish begins its feeding process by attaching itself to a passing fish. Once firmly attached, it then bores its way inside its unsuspecting host. Once inside, the hagfish will actually eat the fish's flesh with a specialized rasping tongue. It literally eats its victim from the inside out. When no large prey can be found, hagfish will feed on worms and other small invertebrates they find on the ocean floor. Hagfish have a very slow metabolism and can go for months without feeding. They can sometimes be a nuisance to fishermen because they can spoil an entire catch of deep sea fish before the catch can be hauled to the surface. One catch of fish can contain hundreds of hagfish. It has been observed that some hagfish species are actually hermaphroditic, which means that they are both male and female. Since local populations of hagfish tend to be quite large, as many as 15,000, it is believed that they have a low mortality rate.



Fangtooth




The Fangtooth is also known as the orgefish, and that certainly doesn't come as a surprise. It only can get up to 6 inches long, but lives at depths all the way to 16,000 feet down! (But only in tropical or temperate waters). The fangtooth gets its name from its rather impressive looking teeth, which are actually the largest teeth of any fish in the ocean when taken in proportion to body size.It has a short, deep body and with a large head and mouth. The head contains numerous mucous cavities separated by serrated ridges. These cavities are covered over with thin skin. The body of this fish is covered with small, prickly scales, and its color varies from black to dark brown. It has very small eyes that are set high on the head. To compensate for relatively poor eyesight, the fangtooth has developed an unusually prominent lateral line which helps it to sense movement and vibration from the surrounding water.Undoubtedly the most noticeable characteristic of this species is the teeth. They are so large that the fangs on the lower jaw actually slide into specially formed pockets in the roof of the mouth when the jaw is closed. These pockets extend into sockets on either side of the brain. These teeth become a formidable weapon as the fangtooth hunts squid other small fish. Because its eyesight is not good, many researchers think the fangtooth hunts by a process known as chemoreception, where it essentially must bump into something edible as it searches the dark waters. It is believed that these fish migrate to upper layers of the ocean to feed during the night and then return to the murky depths during the day.These fish are commonly seen between 600 and 6,500 feet (200 - 2,000 meters), but have been observed as deep as 16,000 feet (5,000 meters). The pressure at these great depths is intense and the water temperature is near freezing. The fangtooth is more robust than other deep water species. Researchers have been able to keep them alive for months in captivity in spite of the vast differences in temperature and pressure. Scientists still do not know how long they live.




Oarfish




The strange-looking oarfish is the longest bony fish in the sea.The origin of the oarfish name is unknown, but may refer to the oar-shaped body or the long, oar-like pelvic fins. Because of its long, thin shape, the oarfish fish is sometimes known as the ribbonfish. It is also commonly referred to as the king of herrings. Even though it is a deep water species, it is not too uncommon to see an oarfish. These unusual creatures have been known to wash ashore on beaches after storms, providing endless hours of fascination for curious onlookers. They also have a habit of floating near the surface of the water when they are sick or dying. Because of this, it is believed that the oarfish may be responsible for many of the legendary sightings of sea monsters and sea serpents by ancient mariners and beach goers. Although it is fished for sport as a game fish, the oarfish is not usually fished commercially because its gelatinous flesh is not considered edible. The most noticeable feature of the oarfish is its extremely long, ribbon-like body. These fish can reach a length of over 50 feet (15 meters) and weigh as much as 600 pounds (272 kilograms). Its scaleless body is covered with a silver to silvery blue skin and is topped with an ornate, red dorsal fin that resembles a decorative headdress. This dorsal fin runs the entire length of the fish, with a tiny spine projecting above each of over 400 individual fin rays. The pelvic fins of this fish are elongated and similarly colored. The oarfish has a small mouth with no visible teeth. Their diet consists mainly of plankton, small crustaceans, and small squid that they strain from the water using specially formed gill rakes in their mouth. In turn, the oarfish may be a food source for larger ocean carnivores such as sharks. Almost everything we know about the oarfish has been learned from specimens that have washed ashore on beaches or have been accidentally caught by fishermen. They have been known to come to the surface at night, apparently attracted by the lights of the boats. Oarfish have also been observed swimming in a vertical position. It is believed that this may be one way that the oarfish searches for food.Oarfish are a pelagic species found throughout the deep seas of the eastern Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. They are usually found at a depth of around 600 feet (200 meters), although they have been known to go as deep as 3,000 feet (1,000 meters). They have also been observed at depths as shallow as 20 feet (60 meters). It is possible that they move to shallower waters as they search for food. Though rarely seen in the wild, their numbers are thought to be abundant enough that they are currently not considered to be endangered.




Giant Tube Worm




The giant tube worm was totally unknown to science until researchers exploring the deep Pacific Ocean floor discovered strange, hydrothermal vents. Powered by volcanic heat, these vents recirculate water that seeps down through cracks or faults in the rock. When the water emerges from the vent, it is rich in chemicals and minerals. This toxic soup of chemicals would be lethal to most animals, so scientists were shocked to find entire ecosystems of animals living around these vents. In spite of the near boiling temperature of the water, these animals were thriving in the complete absence of light. The organisms that live near these vents are unique because, unlike all other living things on earth, they do not depend on sunlight for their source of energy. Instead, they feed on tiny bacteria that get their energy directly from the chemicals in the water through a process known as chemosynthesis. These hydrothermal vents are known as "black smokers" because of the dark color of the material they eject.These giant tube worms grow up to eight feet (over two meters) in length and have no mouth and no digestive tract. They depend on bacteria that live inside them for their food. This type of mutually beneficial relationship between two organisms is known as symbiosis. The bacteria actually convert the chemicals from the hydrothermal vents into organic molecules that provide food for the worm.Perhaps the most noticeable characteristic of these worms is their bright red plume. This is a specialized organ used for exchanging compounds such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen sulphide with the seawater. The bright red color comes from the presence of large amounts of hemoglobin (blood). It is this plume that provides nutrients to the bacteria that live inside the worm. The outer tube of the worm is made from a tough, natural substance called chitin. Chitin is also the main component in the exoskeletons of crabs, lobsters, and shrimp. Although the worms have no eyes, they can sense movement and vibrations and will retreat into their protective tubes when threatened.Giant tube worms have been found throughout the Pacific Ocean where deep sea hydrothermal vents have been discovered. The average depth of these vents is 5,000 feet (1,500 meters). Entire communities of shrimps and crabs have been found living around these giants. It is believed that these invertebrates feed by nibbling off bits of the tube worms' red plumes. As amazing as these vent ecosystems are, they are also extremely fragile. As the Earth's crust shifts due to geothermal activity, the supply of chemicals through the vents can be cut off. When this happens, all of the incredible creatures that depend on these chemicals will wither and die. Scientists have returned to once thriving vent sites only to find them completely cold and dead. But the cycle begins again when new hydrothermal cents begin to grow elsewhere on the deep sea floor.




Deep Sea Dragonfish



The deep sea dragonfish, sometimes known as the scaleless dragonfish, is a ferocious predator that inhabits the deep oceans of the world.In spite of its gruesome appearance, its is a small fish, measuring only about 6 inches (about 15 centimeters) in length. There are several different species of dragonfish. All are very similar in appearance.The deep sea dragonfish is one of the many species of deep sea fish that can produce its own light through a chemical process known as bioluminescence.It is believed that the fish can use these flashing lights in the dark waters to attract prey and even to signal potential mates. The dragonfish has a large head and mouth equipped with many sharp, fang-like teeth. It also has a long protrusion known as a barbel attached to its chin. This barbel is tipped with a light-producing photophore. The dragonfish also has photophores along the sides of its body. These light organs may be used to signal other dragonfish during mating. They may also serve to attract and disorient prey fishes from deep below.The dragonfish can use its light-producing barbel like a fishing lure. By flashing it on and off and waving it back and forth, it is thought that the dragonfish can attract the attention of its potential meal. Once an unsuspecting fish gets too close, it is snapped up in the dragonfish's powerful jaws. The large teeth of the dragonfish help it to grab its prey as it hunts in the dark waters of the deep sea. It will feed on small fish and crustaceans as well as anything else it can find. Since many of their prey also produce light themselves, the dragonfish has evolved special method of remaining hidden from predators after its meal. The walls of its stomach are black to keep the lights concealed while its meal is digested.The deep sea dragonfish lives in deep ocean waters at depths of up to 5,000 feet (1,500 meters). Although dragonfish species are found in most oceans the world, the deep sea dragonfish is limited mainly to the North and Western Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.




Viperfish



The viperfish is one of the most unusual-looking fish in the deep sea. It is also one of the most popular and well-known species. This fish can be easily recognized by its large mouth and sharp, fang-like teeth. In fact, these fangs are so large that they will not fit inside the mouth. Instead, they curve back very close to the fish's eyes. The viperfish is thought to use these sharp teeth to impale its victims by swimming at them at high speeds. The first vertebra, right behind the head, is actually designed to act as a shock absorber. This fearsome looking creature has a long dorsal spine that is tipped with a photophore. In spite of its ferocious appearance, the viperfish is a relatively small animal, growing to about 11 or 12 inches (30 centimeters) in length. It is usually dark silvery blue in color, but its coloration can vary from green to silver or black. Although the main light organ is located at the end of the elongated dorsal fin ray, there are also several photophores located all along the side of the fish. These may help to camouflage the fish from predators lurking below. These lights make its bottom side appear to blend in with the extremely faint light filtering down from above. They may also serve to attract prey and communicate with potential mates or rivals. The unusually large teeth of the viperfish help it to grab hold of its prey at it hunts in the darkness. Viperfish have been observed hanging motionless in the water, waving their lures over their heads like a fishing pole to attract their meals. They have a hinged skull, which can be rotated up for swallowing unusually large prey. They also have very large stomachs that allow them to stock up on food whenever it is plentiful. Viperfish feed primarily on crustaceans and small fish. Like many deep-sea creatures, they are known to migrate vertically throughout the day. During daytime hours they are usually found in deep water down to 5,000 feet (1,500 meters). At night they travel up to shallower waters at depths of less than 2,000 feet (600 meters) where food is more plentiful. Viperfish have a very low basal metabolic rate, which means they can go for days without food. This adaptation is likely a result of the scarce nature of food in the deep sea. Not much is known about the life span of the viperfish, but most researchers think they live between 15 and 30 years. In captivity, they rarely live longer than a few hours.Viperfish are found in tropical and temperate waters throughout the world at depths of up to 9,000 feet (2,800 meters). They are rarely seen by humans, although specimens do sometimes show up in the catches of deep water trawlers. These occasional catches provide scientists with unique opportunities to study this elusive animal. Because they live in such deep waters, it is believed that human activity has very little impact on their populations.



Vampire Squid



The vampire squid looks like something that swam out of a late-night science fiction movie.But in spite of its monstrous name, its is a small creature, growing to only about six inched in length. The vampire squid is an ancient species and is a phylogenic relict, meaning that is is the only surviving member of the order Vampyromorphida. It is a unique member of the cephalopod family in that it shares similarities with both squid and octopuses. In fact, it was originally and mistakenly identified as an octopus by researchers in 1903.The vampire squid has large fins at the top of its body that resemble ears. These fins serve as its primary means of propulsion as it literally flies through the water by flapping these fins. As with other squid, it can also use jet propulsion to move by expelling water through a specialized siphon jet located just under its mantle. The vampire squid has a very gelatinous form, resembling a jellyfish more than the common squid. It can swim surprisingly fast for a gelatinous animal, reaching speeds of over two body lengths per second. It also has the largest eyes relative to its body size of any animal. Though it is relatively small, growing to a length of only about six inches, it has globular eyeballs about the size of those of a large dog. These large eyes can appear red or blue in color, depending on the light. The vampire squid's eight arms are connected with a webbing of skin, which makes it look more like an octopus than a squid. When threatened, the squid can draw its arms up over itself and form a defensive web that covers its body. Each of the eight arms is lined with a single row of suction cups and rows of soft, fleshy spines known as cirri. It is these spines, along with the cape-like webbing and red eyes that give the vampire squid its unusual name. Located inside the vampire quid's webbed arms can be found a pair of retractable sensory filamnets. These filaments are similar to the two long tentacles found on other squid species. Also located within the webbing are two powerful beak-like jaws. These jaws are as white as ivory and are strong enough to crush the shells of crustaceans. The squid's color ranges from jet black to pale red. The vampire squid's body is covered with light-producing organs called photophores. This gives the squid the unique ability to "turn itself on or off" at will through a chemical process known as bioluminescence. When the photophores are off, the squid is completely invisible in the dark waters where it lives. The squid has incredible control over these light organs. It has the ability to modulate the size and intensity of the photophores to create complex patterns that can be used to disorient predators and attract prey. The photophores are larger and more complex at the tips of the arms and the base of its two fins. Unlike most other squid, it does not have the ability to change its color. This ability would be useless in the dark environments in which it lives. The squid's light show is probably its main form of defense, since it lacks the ink sack which is present in other squid species. It can, however, eject a thick cloud of glowing, bioluminescent mucus from the tips of its arms when threatened.Not much is known about the feeding habits of the vampire squid. Its diet is believed to consist of prawns, copepods, cnidarians, and other small invertebrates. The beaks of vampire squid have been found in the stomachs of seals, whales, and fishes, indicating that it is a favorite prey item for many deep-diving species. The squid has an extremely low metabolic rate, indicating that it can go for long periods of time without feeding. This is an important adaptation seen in many deep sea species since food can be hard to find at these extreme depths.Vampire squid are found throughout the deep oceans of the world in most tropical and temperate regions at depths of between 300 feet (about 90 meters) and 3,000 feet (over 900 meters). They live in the oxygen minimum layer of the ocean where virtually no light penetrates. They seem to prefer a temperature between 35 and 43 degrees Fahrenheit.



Firefly Squid





Of all the bioluminescent life forms in the deep sea, there is one tiny creature who's light show puts all others to shame. This is the firefly squid, sometimes called the sparkling enope squid.It is a member of the cephalopod family and is related to many other squid species throughout the world's oceans. The firefly squid gets its name from the flashing lights that resemble those of a firefly. This squid is famous for the incredible light show that occurs each year off the coast of Japan as millions of these tiny animals gather to spawn.The firefly squid is a small member of the squid family, growing to a length of only three inches (seven centimeters). The squid is equipped with special light-producing organs called photophores. These photophores are found on many parts of the squid's body and emit a deep blue light. Large photophores can be found on the tips of the tentacles as well as around the eyes. Thousands of tiny photophores can be found throughout the squid's body, giving it the ability to emit light along its entire form. The lights can be flashed in unison or alternated in an endless number of animated patterns. These light shows are thought to serve several functions. They can be used to communicate with potential mates or rivals. They may also be used to disguise the squid's shape and confuse predators, allowing it to escape. The firefly squid is the only member of the squid family that is believed to have color vision. While most cephalopods have only one visual pigment, firefly squid have three. They also have a double-layered retina in the back of the eye. These adaptations for color vision may have evolved to enable firefly squid to distinguish between ambient light and bioluminescence, and to help them decode the patterns of light created by other members of the species.The firefly squid is an active predator. It is believed that the squid can use their blue lights to attract prey. By flashing the lights on and off, they can attract small fish and then pounce on them with their powerful tentacles. Firefly squid spend their days at depths of about 1,200 feet (365 meters). At night, they migrate up to the surface to search for food before returning the the darkness below.Firefly squid are found throughout the western Pacific Ocean where they can typically be found at depths ranging from 600 to 1,200 feet (182 to 365 meters). This squid is considered a delicacy in Japan and is widely fished there during the spawning season. As fishing boats haul in their catches, the sea surface begins to glow a bright cobalt blue. The spectacle is so amazing that tourists travel with sight seeing boats just to watch the show.




Sources for facts: http://www.seasky.org/deep-sea/gulper-eel.html http://www.seasky.org/deep-sea/sixgill-shark.html http://www.seasky.org/deep-sea/atlantic-hagfish.htmlhagfish.html]http://www.seasky.org/deep-sea/atlantic-hagfish.html http://www.seasky.org/deep-sea/fangtooth.html http://www.seasky.org/deep-sea/oarfish.html http://www.seasky.org/deep-sea/giant-tube-worm.html http://www.seasky.org/deep-sea/dragonfish.htmlhttp://www.seasky.org/deep-sea/vampire-squid.html http://www.seasky.org/deep-sea/firefly-squid.html http://www.seasky.org/deep-sea/viperfish.html


Last edited by Ashley on Fri Mar 25, 2011 6:49 am; edited 10 times in total
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Ashley

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GREAT JOB!

Post  Molly on Wed Mar 23, 2011 4:08 pm

wow! you know lots about sea creatures! haha good job! Very Happy
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Thanks! :)

Post  Ashley on Wed Mar 23, 2011 5:41 pm

Hahaha thanks! Very Happy But I got most of my info from the links Smile
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Re: Creatures of the Deep

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