American Oceans

Mariana Trench Sea Creatures

If you’ve ever wondered what creatures haunt the ocean’s lower depths, your imagination likely can’t live up to reality.

a deep sea creature living in the mariana trench

The Marianna Trench is deeper than Mt Everest is tall, and home to one of the most inhospitable environments on Earth.

The Marianna Trench animals look like aliens from a sci-fi movie, yet they share this planet with creatures like ourselves.

Our way of life and existence is just as foreign to them as theirs is to us, and little is known about these mystifying creatures.

Goblin Shark

a rendering of a goblin shark swimming in the mariana trench

Scientific Name: Mitsukurina owstoni
Other Names: None
Depth: 600-4,300 ft

First discovered in 1898, this nightmarish shark has haunted children’s dreams ever since. With a sizeable protruding nose and sharp jaw, the Goblin Shark hunts for prey in the ocean’s inky depths.

We don’t know what its unusual nose is for, but this creature can reach out with its jaws to capture fleeing prey. They grow to be 12 ft long and are a fleshy white, pink color, which doesn’t give them a friendly image. 

Between its alien jaws, horror movie coloring, terrifying nose, and large size, this is one shark you do not want to encounter in the ocean’s darkness. 

Seadevil Angler Fish

a seadevil anglerfish from the marian trench preserved

Scientific Name: Melanocetus
Other Names: Black Seadevil Anglerfish, Black Anglerfish
Depth: 13,000 ft

About halfway down the Mariana Trench lives a fish popularized by the Pixar movie Finding Nemo. Like its animated counterpart, the Seadevil Anglerfish has large jaws capable of eating prey larger than itself and a small light it can dim and light at will to lure prey.

Anglerfish were first discovered in 1833 when a corpse of this demon-like fish washed up on the shores of Greenland. And ever since, they’ve captured our imagination with their horrible jaws and deceptive lights.

Female anglerfish are larger than males, and males fuse with females, eventually dissolving into them to become one creature. It’s one of the strangest ways for animals to mate, and thus far, a feature only found in anglerfish.

Deep-Sea Hatchetfish

Scientific Name: Sternoptychinae
Other Names: Silver hatchet fish, Lovely hatchet fish, 
Depth: 650-3,000 ft

This small silvery fish has a unique form of camouflage. It disguises its silhouette by producing low light levels, and its reflective scales confuse predators. In deep water where little light reaches, it’s an ingenious way of disguising itself.

It was discovered in 1781, sporting a lovely silver color, and shaped like a miniature handheld hatchet. It eats small crustaceans and other tiny creatures that call the seafloor home.

It only grows six inches long and lives no longer than a year. With such a short life cycle and so many predators, hatchet fish breed prolifically to survive as a species, though much about this process is unknown.

Zombie Worms

Scientific Name: Osedax
Other Names: Bone-Eater Worm
Depth: 10,000 ft

These tiny creatures look like delicate plants swaying in the ocean’s currents on whale bones at the bottom of the sea floor. However, these little creatures are worms that secrete acid to burrow into bones and feed on fat.

The males are very tiny compared to females, and the females cultivate harems of them. They eventually find the female’s spores, fertilize them, and the female releases them into the ocean to burrow into even more whale bones. 

These Mariana Trench animals were only discovered in 2002 when observational equipment began to reach such depths. Their acid is powerful, and symbiotic bacteria break down the bone into usable chemicals it can live off.

Frilled Shark

Scientific Name: Chlamydoselachus anguineus
Other Names: Lizard shark, Scaffold shark
Depth: 1,640-3,280 ft, but also seen deeper.

The Frilled Shark has over 300 teeth in its mouth and hasn’t changed for millions of years. Sometimes called a “living fossil,” this shark has been hunting the ocean depths longer than humans have existed on this planet.

Growing to seven feet long, it achieved its name from the frills that line its gills. Frilled sharks were first discovered in Japan in 1884, washed ashore from a storm. Due to the challenges of exploring the ocean’s depths, there is little information about the Frilled Shark’s lifecycle.

Dumbo Octopus

Scientific Name: Grimpoteuthis
Other Names: None
Depth: 1,900-13,000 ft

The Dumbo Octopus received its name for its large “ears” on its head, which reminds you of a famous Disney elephant. However, these ears are fins that help it navigate the depths of the ocean floor.

It sits on the seafloor or slightly above and methodically searches for small creatures in the seabed. Its tentacles are relatively short and thick, so it looks like a starfish with extra legs and a small bulbous head in the middle.

This tiny octopus is one of the friendlier creatures you’ll find haunting the Mariana Trench. This is an entire genus of octopi, and scientists are still discovering new species.

Barreleye Fish

Scientific Name: Opisthoproctidae
Other Names: Spook Fish
Depth: 2,000-2,600 ft

The Barreleye fish is also known as the spook fish because of its eerie appearance. Its skull, skin, and flesh are transparent until you get to its barrel-shaped eyes in the center of its head.

Its haunting shape is like something out of an alien landscape, and the large nostrils on its head are commonly mistaken for eyes. Its unusual eyes search for the slightest traces of light and the silhouettes of fish swimming above it. It then hunts these fish and repeats the process.

Much is unknown about these creatures, as they implode without the constant massive pressure of their depths, making studying these creatures nearly impossible.

Telescope Octopus

Scientific Name: Amphitretus pelagicus
Other Names: None
Depth: 500-6,500 ft

Scientists believe the Telescope Octopus is in the same family as the glass octopus because it’s entirely transparent. Its eyeballs pop out of its body, and it remains vertical in the water as it searches for prey so predators below them can’t see its silhouette,

There is very little information about the Telescope Octopus except that they have the strangest eyes of any octopus. They grow to about eight inches, are relatively small, and float on currents. They’re tough to spot in the dark depth of the ocean, and few have ever been recorded.

Deep-Sea Dragonfish

Scientific Name: Grammatostomias flagellibarba
Other Names: Barbelled Dragonfish
Depth: 650-4,900 ft

The deep sea dragonfish looks like the world’s most frightening eel. Its skin is fleshy and lures prey with its bioluminescent chin that juts out from its head. It glows red, possibly to communicate with other fish.

It eats whatever it can, from plankton and algae to small fish, crustaceans, and even insects. It has enormous fangs that jut out of its mouth and grows six inches in length. They may sound small, but they’re apex predators in their stretch of the ocean.

Fangtooth Fish

Scientific Name: Anoplogaster cornuta
Other Names: common fangtooth, ogrefish, shorthorn fangtooth
Depth: 1,600-6,500 ft

This edgy fish has been found in depths below 16,500 ft, though it’s unusual for it to go that far, making it one of the deepest living fish on the planet. It eats whatever it can find in the darkness, squid, crustaceans, and fish. 

They have giant teeth proportionate to the size of any fish in the ocean, and they move quickly through the water to kill their prey. It was first fished out of the water in 1833, as it moves to shallower depths at night to hunt.

Mariana Snailfish

Scientific Name: Pseudoliparis swirei
Other Names: None
Depth: 26,000-28,000 ft

The deepest fish in the oceans, the Mariana snailfish, was only discovered in 2014. It feeds on crustaceans on the ocean floor and is virtually the only fish to live so deep. There’s still so much we don’t know about the snailfish and how it can survive so far underwater, where the pressure is over 1600 times it is on land.

This fish is still studied, and how it survives such crushing oceanic pressure is astounding. It is white and can reach over four inches, so it looks like a giant tadpole.

Vampire Squid

Scientific Name: Vampyroteuthis infernalis
Other Names: None
Depth: 2,000-3,000 ft

Nothing captures the imagination quite like a blood-red squid with leathery webbing and giant bright blue eyes that hunt for prey in the ocean’s depths. The vampire squid doesn’t suck blood, though it certainly looks like it would.

Instead, this squid feeds on marine snow, the small dead bits that float down from above, making this squid a scavenger rather than a predator. It scares off predators by spraying bioluminescent ink, which confuses them and causes them to attack themselves.

While this is one of the friendliest creatures you can encounter at such depths, it’s still very creepy to observe and looks like it will eat you.

Comb Jellies

Scientific Name: Ctenophora
Other Names: None
Depth: 23,700 ft

Comb jellies have delicate thin combs it uses to help propel themselves through the water. It’s one of the few creatures that haunt the depths of the Mariana Trench and has vibrant rainbow hues that reflect whatever light makes its way to these depths.

Despite their lovely looks, comb jellies are voracious and will devour anything they can, including other comb jellies. Cannibalization aside, they are one of the most beautiful creatures in this nightmarish landscape and are only about four inches long.


Scientific Name: Benthocodon
Other Names: None
Depth: Below 2,500 ft

Little known is this deep-sea jellyfish. It treads the bottom of the seafloor, looking for tiny bioluminescent prey. It scoops it up into its hood to devour it, and its dark red color keeps its prey from shining through.

It has over 1,500 wispy red tentacles surrounding its one-inch dome and gently swims just above the sea floor. They’re very different from your average jellyfish and are the only known species living so deep.

Ping-Pong Tree Sponge

Scientific Name: Chondrocladia lampadiglobus Vacelet
Other Names: None
Depth: 8,800 ft

No one ever said that scientists are good at naming things. A good example is this species, the Ping Pong Tree Sponge. 

It looks exactly how it sounds, a small tree growing ping-pong balls. But in actuality, this predatory creature captures small, unsuspecting prey that swims past in its transparent balls.

It can reach 20 inches in height and is a carnivorous sponge. It was discovered in 2005 and remained one of the strangest creatures in the depths of the Mariana Trench.

Pink See-Through Fantasia

Scientific Name: Enypniastes
Other Names: Headless Chicken Fish, Headless Chicken Monster, Spanish Dancer
Depth: 9,000 ft

These small animals are a type of sea cucumber, which look like fleshy caterpillars that trawl the ocean floor for detriment they can eat. The Pink See-Through Fantasia only grows to between four to ten inches. 

As you might expect from its colorful nicknames, this sea cucumber swims with a strange water ballet that looks like a headless chicken. It was only discovered in 2007 and is very rare, even by the darkest depths of the ocean standards.

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