Creeps from the Deep
by Kathy Kranking
Did you know the ocean is haunted? It’s true! Ghosts, goblins, and other spooky creatures are lurking beneath the waves. So sit back and enjoy their real-life creep show!
This bizarre-looking shark uses its pointed snout to help it find food. The snout is covered with tiny pores, or openings, that pick up electrical signals from prey. When the shark comes across a fish, crab, or other yummy creature, it grabs it with its sharp teeth. Then it sucks the prey down its throat.
Now you see it; now you don’t! The ghost pipefish gets its name from its way of “disappearing.” The long threads trailing from its body make it look more like a piece of floating seaweed than a fish. And when it hides among real seaweed, it’s even harder to see.
Despite its name, the vampire squid doesn’t feed on blood. It eats tiny bits of dead animals and other small stuff that drifts down to its deep-sea world. As the squid swims, it holds out a sticky, tentacle-like part. The food gets caught there. Then the squid uses its arms to scrape off the food and eat it.
DEAD MAN'S FINGERS
Look! Poking up from that coral reef—is it someone’s hand? Nope, it’s a coral called dead man’s fingers. You’d discover it was soft and spongy—if you were brave enough to touch it!
Sitting on the sea floor, the tricky devilfish looks like coral. But when unsuspecting little fish swim close, the devilfish gobbles them up. It doesn’t have to worry much about being eaten itself—poisonous spines in its fins keep it safe from predators.
The batfish doesn’t fly, but it does something almost as surprising. It walks! Using its fins as legs, it
creeps along the sea floor. Another surprise is the batfish’s bright red lips, which may help other batfish recognize it.
The first thing you might notice about this fish is its strange-looking eyes. Each eye is actually split into two parts. The top part points up to see what’s above the fish. And the bottom part looks down through the fish’s see-through head to see what’s below. It’s clearly amazing!
Check out this pair of skeleton shrimps. Can you see why they’re sometimes called “praying mantises of the sea”? They use those folded front legs to grab tiny floating creatures and bits of food. The white circle is an egg pouch. Soon the eggs will hatch, and then more skeletons will haunt the ocean!
My, what sharp teeth this eel has—the better to catch its slippery prey. The moray uses its horn-like nostrils to smell fish, octopuses, or other prey that comes close. Then, at just the right moment, it lunges out from its hiding place among rocks or coral. Gulp!
Now you can see why, in the ocean, it's Halloween every day!
This article originally appeared in the October 2015 issue of Ranger Rick magazine. Click here for a close-up view of the photos.