Learn About Unusual Deep Sea Creatures

We are all familiar with dolphins, whales and sharks; we know what tuna and snapper look like, but what about some less familiar fish such as lizardfish, giant squid, or blind eels? There are so many lesser known animals in the depths of the ocean that we hear little or nothing about most times, it is interesting to investigate a few of these creatures and understand them a little more.

The first on our list of deep sea creatures is the fangtooth fish. This fish is one of the most evil looking ocean predators. It lives in the deep ocean and catches its prey by luring them in with glowing light organs called photophores. In such a dark abyss, fish are attracted to the light put off by the organ and once they are close enough the fangtooth fish catches them in his numerous large teeth. He looks like an underwater vampire.

Another carnivorous sea animal is the deep-sea lizardfish. These interesting fish look almost like a short snake in water. Their mouths are covered with harpoon-tipped teeth that grasp their prey and don’t let go, similar to a fish hook. These teeth are hinged so that they can flattened down when prey is going in and stand up when resisting. They don’t even need to actively swallow; the struggling prey just ratchets itself inside. With their glowing yellow eyes, the lizardfish is a wonder to behold.

Often called the nastiest fish in the ocean, the blind eel is next on our list. These fish are called blind eels because they have such small, ineffective eyes. Who needs eyes when you are living in almost complete darkness? They prey on live or dead fish which they locate through smell. They have circular mouths that they use to suck on their prey. They have tooth-studded tongues that allow them to cut through their victims flesh and literally eat them from the inside out. They are also sometimes called slime eels because their skin emits a sticky slime, up to a gallon at a time. It is used to suffocate predators by clogging their gills when they attempt to eat the eel.

The last of our unusual deep sea animals, giant squid, has been the subject of tall tales for centuries. Until recently, however, these tales were dismissed as fiction. The only information we have on them comes from finding pieces of their bodies in the stomachs of sperm whales, or those that have been washed up on shore. Another area where their existence is apparent is on the skin of sperm whales where giant sucker scars can be seen after what must be epic battles between the two huge creatures. Giant squid can grow to the size of a school bus or bigger. They are carnivorous and have a long, torpedo shaped body. At one end, surrounding a beak-like mouth strong enough to cut through steel cable, are five pairs of arms. One pair, thinner and longer than the rest, is used to catch food and bring it to the mouth. Just past the mouth are the eyes, eyes that are the largest in the animal kingdom, getting as big as eighteen inches across. They are nearly impossible to photograph alive because they live in such deep waters.

It is interesting to think about what other types of deep sea animals exist that we haven’t yet discovered. What wonders does the bottom of the ocean hold and can we ever know? With modern technology constantly searching for new ways to study the ocean floor, the possibility of finding new creatures becomes more real every day. For a world who thinks they have seen it all, the deep, deep ocean still holds the hope for something new.

Copyright 2006 Emma Snow

Is the Critically Endangered Leatherback Sea Turtle The Most Amazing Animal on Earth?

The magnificent leatherback turtle has my vote as the most amazing animal on earth.

Like the other remaining species of marine turtle, it left its four-footed land predecessors more than one hundred ten million years ago, developed flippers, and populated the Seven Seas—before there were Seven Seas. Literally before the Seven Seas.

Mother Earth was a very different place way back then.

Although humans look around at the world and think that the rivers, canyons, and mountains we see today have always been there, nothing could be farther from the truth. For example, today’s mighty Himalayas, with their tallest mountain in the world, Mount Everest, were not very mighty at all when turtles first entered the oceans. The reason? They did not even exist that long ago. Indeed, it would be another 65,000,000 years before the force of the collision between the subcontinent of India and Asia pushed them to the heavens.

Not only were there not Seven Seas yet, there were only two supercontinents. The southern supercontinent is called “Gondwana” which contained today’s Africa, South America, Antarctica, Australia, Arabia, and India, and more.

Antarctica was connected to Australia when the first leatherbacks took to the sea and would not uncouple from it for about thirty million more generations of these sea animals.

South America remained close to West Antarctica, which was temperate in climate. Another 80,000,000 years would go by before Antarctica would have migrated far to the south and turn into the frigid continent we see.

This ancient time spawned these ancient sea turtles.

When the ancestors of today’s leatherbacks evolved into sea dwellers, there were no birds in the sky, no elephants, mastodons, mammoths, and not even a tiny mouse because there were no birds or mammals at all on the globe.

For that matter, there were no dinosaurs, either. The mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex would not walk the planet for about four hundred thousand centuries more. Yes, you read it correctly: 400,000 centuries.

Maybe you know that dolphins and whales originated from land animals and went to sea long ago. That is really impressive! Except to a sea turtle. Why? Because leatherbacks were swimming the world’s oceans for more than fifty million years before those mighty leviathons—which are closely related to hippopotamus—evolved, left the land, and entered the oceans, too.

Leatherbacks are the largest of all sea turtles and can weigh nearly a ton, like the one caught off Wales that tipped the scales at 1,980 pounds. These magnificent creatures saw the first and last dinosaur, and lived through the world’s extinction, and flourished as the planet went from two supercontinents to the seven of today.But, that spectacular ability to adapt is not why they are so amazing.

Consider this: the world marveled, and deservedly so, at Michael Phelps’ unbelievable speed when he set a world record in the 200 meter freestyle swim event in Beijing. But, in the time it took him to go that distance, a huge leatherback, weighing about as much as the entire offensive line of a professional football team, would pass the 1,000 meter mark—more than a third of a mile farther than Michael.

In fact, this sea turtle is listed in the 1992 Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest reptile on earth!

It would be a fairer race if the world’s fastest man competed against a swimming turtle. The turtle and man would be almost even at the hundred meter mark, and the human might nose out a victory. But, the swimming leatherback would blow away every human runner at 400 meters and farther.

Not only can this ancient being swim five times faster than the fastest human the world has produced, it may also be the world’s greatest long-distance swimmer. One of these giants was tracked by scientists migrating 13,000 miles—and that was only to the destination from which it needed to return.

Besides being the world’s fastest reptile and maybe the world’s greatest long-distance migrator, it is the deepest diving marine turtle on the planet, regularly diving some 4,000 feet underwater. To put that depth into perspective, America’s extraordinary nuclear submarines are allowed to operate at a maximum normal operating depth of about 1,600 feet because they’d crush under the sea pressure at 2,400 feet. Man’s best technology and strongest metal and composite materials are no match for the diving ability of this ancient reptile.

Leatherbacks are found not only in all tropical and subtropical waters on earth but have been seen as far north as the Arctic Circle, in Alaska, near Quebec, and Norway, and as far south as the Cape of Good Hope and even below New Zealand, in waters as cold as 40°F. Yet, although they are cold blooded reptiles, they remain nice and cozy because they can maintain a body temperature as much as 32°F (18°C) higher than the surrounding water. They do this by having a metabolic rate four times faster than any other sea turtle; a unique internal system that actually generates heat through a very sophisticated mechanism; and their bulk and fat.

Man invented the wet suit in the late twentieth century. These “primitive” animals have had their own a bit longer.

Disgracefully, in the last 30 years, man’s rapacious greed and carelessness have decimated the numbers of this magnificent creature. Between 1980 and 2005, the number of leatherback sea turtles in Mexico declined 99%, a catastrophic decline since that country had about two thirds of the world’s total leatherbacks.

Mexico should not be singled out because, all across the globe, leatherback populations were collapsing. For example, just a few years ago 10,000 leatherbacks nested in Malaysia each year. In 2008, there were two.

Today, more than a hundred countries, hundreds of conservation organizations, and tens of thousands of volunteers are determined to stem the decline of this magnificent creature but it remains very vulnerable.

Despite laws passed to conserve these creatures their nests are routinely plundered for eggs. Untold numbers die from ingesting plastic bags which look like jellyfish, their primary food. More drown in commercial fishing and shrimp nets which we euphemistically call “incidental catch.” We destroy their habitat, build our homes on their beaches and wonder why the sea turtles are going extinct.

Little Costa Rica has taken an active role in sea turtle preservation, setting aside the world’s biggest green sea turtle nesting refuge at Tortuguero National Park and preserving Ostional Refuge for the earth’s largest arribadas—or olive sea turtle nestings–where up to half a million turtles sometimes come ashore to nest. Increasingly important is Costa Rica ecotourism, with its economic impact.

Don’t Miss Sea World When You Visit Orlando

When people visit Orlando, Florida they are sure to include visits to the main theme parks: Disney World and Universal Studios, but if I were to choose the third must-see attraction in this region then my choice would be Sea World. This is a theme park that manages to combine fun, education, nature conservation and amusement park thrills all in one locale. If you are curious to know what you can expect to find in Sea World, then read on and we will have a look at the main features of the park.

If you have kids, or if you are a big kid yourself, then the unique charm of Sea World is to be able to get up close to exotic and mysterious creatures such as sea turtles, dolphins, penguins and stingrays. Sea World accomplishes this by placing these animals in themed areas that closely match the natural habitats.

For example, one of the popular areas at Sea World is the Wild Arctic. The Arctic eco-system is replicated here with thick walls of ice and an old ship. Visitors get to see real walruses, beluga whales and polar bears as well.

Going to the other side of the earth, Sea World also has an Antarctic themed area where you can watch penguins (real ones, not theme-park replicas) frolic in their “Penguin Encounter” area.

As this is Florida, warm water creatures are also featured “stars” of the show. At the Stingray Lagoon you can watch 200 rays glide in a protected habitat. Now, before you let the name scare you, Stingrays are nice and docile animals, in fact you can even get them to “high-five” you if you place your hand in the water! The lagoon also features a stingray nursery where you can watch the pups play. Animal experts are also on hand to answer your questions about these unusually grace creatures.

One of the earth’s oldest species is the turtle. At Sea World’s Turtle point you can get a close look at 300 sea turtles, ranging in size from the tiny hatchlings to six foot long leatherbacks. The turtles live in a natural lagoon that includes a beach, sand dunes and characteristic plant life of the turtle’s natural habitat.

Although Sea World is situated in Florida, the park’s creators did a great job of recreating a Los Angeles nature preserve featuring California sea lions. At the park’s “Pacific Point Preserve” you can meet, touch and feed these gregarious animals. Feeding time is the big moment for this part of the park, as the sea lions and harbor seals always put on a great show for the visitors.

And if the magnificent sea animals are not enough to entertain you and your family the park has some more attractions in the form of sea-themed rides and adventures. One of the newest attractions is called Journey to Atlantis. You get to see the legendary lost continent in a water coaster that features steep and wet plunges. (You will get wet on this ride, so be prepared).

The park also has a 15 storey roller coaster that features floorless cars! I said “floorless” and that means there are no floors in the riding cars. This coaster puts you upside down seven times at speeds that reach 65 mph.

Rounding out the offerings at Sea World is the Waterfront, a dining and entertainment complex where you can relax after enjoying all the sights and action of Sea World. As you can see, Sea World has an attractive array of activities. So, when you visit Orlando, put it on your “must-see” list.