Although most people know that land animals have an uncanny sixth sense for detecting danger (just take any family dog whose ears perk up when something’s not quite right), it’s tougher to tell if ocean dwellers are the same way. After all, we don’t know nearly as much about them, and we obviously don’t encounter them as frequently. But some strange fish in the Philippines could change all that…
Both before and after a 6.5-magnitude earthquake tore through the island of Mindanao, residents found the bodies of several odd creatures that had washed up onshore. These beasts usually dwelled hundreds of feet beneath the surface of the ocean, where you’d think they’d be safer during a seismic event. So, what were they doing so close to land? And could it be a sign of scarier things to come?
When the island of Mindanao in the Philippines was devastated by a 6.5-magnitude earthquake in February 2017, the residents were left to sift through the damage. People lost their homes and their businesses, and it was going to be a huge effort to get them back on their feet again.
Oddly enough, though, one of the more frightening discoveries came on the beaches. There, the bodies of several odd creatures that usually inhabit the deepest parts of the ocean were found both before and after the disaster.
These bodies belonged to the same elusive fish that were also discovered just before the earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan, Chile, and Haiti. Was it a coincidence that these sea creatures mysteriously arrived just before massive natural disasters?
These odd fish normally dwell in the deepest parts of the ocean and are rarely seen by humans. This photograph, for instance, had to be taken by a remote-controlled submersible that was more than 1,000 feet below the surface of the water. So, what are they exactly? And why do they show up during earthquakes?
Though odd, they’re a type of sea creature called an oarfish. They’re defined by their narrow, elongated bodies and are truly one of the most unique-looking marine animals. Yet, because they spend much of their time in the deepest parts of ocean, we rarely get a chance to see them so close… until now.
Because of their startling appearance, oarfish are the source of many sea serpent tales. In fact, these fish are known as “messengers from the sea god’s palace” in Japan. Other places around the world have their own names for oarfish as well.
The western Pacific island of Palau refers to the creatures as “rooster fish” because of the spiny red fins bristling from their heads. It’s a pretty fitting title for them once you get a good look at them.
As you can see, the villagers who found this particular oarfish were captivated by the discovery. Another name for the oarfish is the “ribbon fish,” and this picture clearly shows why. It does actually look like a massive silver ribbon!
Still, other places call the oarfish the “king of the herring” because of its silvery sheen. That sheen, however, becomes quite dull after the oarfish dies, which is why it’s lacking from most of those found washed up on beaches.
Although most of the oarfish found are already deceased, occasionally fishermen will haul in a live one. However, they almost always toss them back into the ocean because the meat is notoriously flabby and gooey, and no one buys it.
Asia isn’t the only region where these strange oarfish have been found on the shores. California, which is also known for its earthquakes, has actually been a hotspot for oarfish sightings itself.
In 2013, the body of an 18-foot oarfish was found on the coast of Catalina Island, and several months after that, two living oarfish were seen swimming in the shallow waters off the coast of Baja.
In one instance, a California woman captured footage of an oarfish while kayaking! The enormous fish was gliding around in the shallow waters, and it actually swam directly underneath her kayak!
The reason so much attention has been brought to these fish is that they’ve been known to wash up on shores situated on massive fault lines, such as Japan, California, and the Philippines. This has earned them the reputation of earthquake predictors!
Even though many researchers attempt to connect the behavior of oarfish with the presence of earthquakes, it’s very hard to prove. Not only that, but there are several other explanations as to why they show up floating around…
Some experts suggest storms and light seismic activity, which doesn’t necessarily result in earthquakes, push the oarfishes’ prey—plankton—to the more shallow waters. Therefore, the oarfish follow their dinner to shore, where they inadvertently beach themselves.
Still, other researchers believe that because oarfishes’ bodies are highly sensitive to stress in the water, it’s possible that the water from big ocean swells simply carries them onto the shore. Once that happens, they’re frequently left to die.
It’s unfortunate we don’t know more about these highly unusual creatures, but hopefully, we’ll discover more about oarfish in the upcoming years. They’re truly one of the most fascinating animals under the sea!
For decades, marine biologists and other scientists have plumbed the ocean’s depths for clues about how the world works and even how our own humanity came to be. As some of the most ancient creatures on earth, sharks and their DNA are often the targets of these studies.
If you’re ever swimming on the coast of Australia or New Zealand, you might get a chance to meet this guy. Now, you might be asking yourself, “what on this blue earth are we looking at?” Well…
Ladies and gentlemen, we give you…the ghost shark. No, this shark isn’t actually a ghost, they are very much alive and well. In fact, these funny looking sharks have been around for a long time.
The ghost shark, also known as the elephant shark, uses its floppy trunk-like nose to fish tiny creatures out of the sand. So though they might look a little off-putting they don’t pose any threats to humans. We’re not really their type as far as dinner goes.
The end of their snout actually has highly specialized pores that can sense movement and electrical fields, making it easy for them to find almost anything. Those little sand critters don’t stand a chance.
Also, just like people, ghost sharks can see in color. Unlike people, however, they have a poisonous spine on their dorsal fin. Can you imagine if humans had poison spine we could use if we felt threatened? Our idea of personal space would be a lot different.
Ghost sharks are a direct descendant of the most ancient jawed vertebrates, meaning that if we study their genome, we can learn more about the origins of ALL vertebrates, including ourselves.
And if you thought the shark looks weird, just check out their egg sack… They almost look like a bulb of kelp which is probably a way to disguise their eggs to protect them against predators.
It never fails to amaze us just how many lessons the ocean and the creatures living in it have to teach us. who would have thought that a shark who looked like THAT could hold any secrets to human evolution?
As eerie as ghost sharks are, they are certainly not the only creature haunting the seas. The whale shark might be harmless to humans, but that doesn’t mean their mouths aren’t serious nightmare fuel. Just picture this thing swimming up behind you…
Sure, nothing appears to be lurking around the corner in this creepy photo, but that’s exactly what makes it so troubling. That fear of the unknown certainly applies to the mysteries of the deep.
Every once in a while, the scariest thing you can find on the ocean floor isn’t a shark, a jellyfish, or another animal—it’s a completely inanimate object. What is that chair doing there? How spooky is that?
Whales are unlikely to behave aggressively towards humans, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re completely massive and dangerous. If ol’ Moby Dick here decides it’s time to come up for air, that little boat will be in trouble.
The boat wasn’t big enough for the unsuspecting Quint, Hooper, and Brody in Jaws, but they still made it out alive (mostly). By comparison, this man and his kayak don’t stand a chance against this big guy!
No, that isn’t a giant tentacle monster from a horror movie—it’s just ordinary, harmless seaweed. Still, we wouldn’t blame you for immediately swimming in the opposite direction if you saw it while surfing!
You might not think that you suffer from claustrophobia, but it would likely be a different—and far more frightening—story if you found yourself in a particularly tight underwater corridor while scuba diving.
ChefBot5000 / Imgur
This octopus is enormous! While he likely doesn’t pose a threat to the scuba diver, there’s still something utterly frightening about seeing such a strange creature up close.
If horror movies set in the ocean have taught us anything, it’s that if you explore an abandoned or sunken ship, you’re bound to run into a giant shark or terrifying skeleton pirate before too long!
schnooleheletteletto / Imgur
Coming across just one hammerhead shark is bad enough, but if you’re unlucky and you get on the bad side of a whole school of hammerhead sharks, you’re not going to stand a chance!
Whales, as a general rule, are pretty unlikely to go out of their way to act aggressively toward humans, but none of that changes the fact that they’re dangerous. Just look how teensy this scuba diver is compared to this humpback! He could be swallowed whole.
What’s more frightening than this unusually large, ghostly stingray is the fact that this brave swimmer is able to keep such a zen-like calm in its presence. Most people would be freaking out, right?
The idea of a haunted forest is a well-mined fantasy trope, but what about a haunted forest that’s also underwater? That’s what you get with Cenote Angelita (“Little Angel”), a hidden underwater river in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.
The thing about the open ocean is that you don’t really know if there’s anything lurking underneath your boat. This perspective really shows you just how much could be swimming below the surface…
Do you know what’s creepy? Any sort of animal with a ridiculous number of legs. The bearded fireworm, a type of marine bristle worm, might just qualify for that category. Yikes!
Jason deCaires Taylor is an “underwater artist” who specializes in creating these unique statues. Surely, he knows how eerie they are. They really look like some sort of underwater graveyard.
Gigantic snakes like this are nightmarish enough on dry land. So just imagine coming face to face with one in the open water where you likely won’t be able to escape? Haven’t these people ever seen the movie Anaconda?
If you ever step on a jellyfish, you’ll most likely feel a teeny sting. So you can imagine how horrible it’d be if this lion’s mane jellyfish touched you. Their stings aren’t usually lethal, but they’re not all that pleasant, either!
The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “If you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” That certainly has to apply to this scuba diver, who’s bravely challenging the unknown with this sinkhole!
If the iconic Jaws theme music by John Williams doesn’t start playing in your head the second you see this picture, you clearly weren’t scared by the movie. Either that, or you’re absurdly brave!
If Jaws doesn’t make your hairs stand on end, lamprey fish just might. While it may resemble an eel, they are actually not related to them in any way. Its outward appearance may seem a little strange, but overall, it’s not too scary, right? Get ready to think again…
These “little” sea creatures may not appear frightening when you first lay eyes upon them… that is, until you take a look at their horrifying mouths, which feature row upon row of teeny, sharp teeth! Don’t be fooled by their small size, though; these teeth can hurt.
Lamprey fish typically grow anywhere from six to 40 inches in length, too! And they’re not just in the United Kingdom. Different kinds of lampreys are native to other parts of the globe, including five kinds in the Great Lakes in the United States!
While there’s no real chance that a lamprey fish could ever consume a human—they’re simply not large enough—the parasitic ones will latch onto you or any prey. Once attached, they’ll begin to suck blood from whatever appendage it may be that they’re feasting on.
Flickr / usfwspacific
This river trout, for instance, has not one, but two lampreys on him that are feeding greedily on his blood. Still, while these eel-like fish are known for their blood-sucking tendencies, many of their habits remain unknown to researchers.
What we do know is that lampreys can be found in both freshwaters and in the ocean, where they have been known to swim great distances. They will travel these long paths in order to find the food (blood) that they need to survive every day in the ocean.
Not only are lampreys able to travel far distances, especially for their size, but they are also regarded as fast and efficient swimmers. Still, whenever they need a break, they’re known to latch themselves onto boats and driftwood.
Flickr / usfwsmidwest
Their strange foresight to attach themselves to boats and travel great distances is a strange, yet smart means of survival. It goes to show that while lampreys might not appear to be intelligent creatures on a surface level, they will do anything to survive.
For the most part, lampreys eat fish, including mackerel, basking sharks, swordfish, cod, eel, sturgeon, American pollock, salmon, and haddock. They aren’t too picky, though, so don’t think they’ll ignore you just because you’re not a fish!
To hunt their prey, lampreys attach themselves to the side of the animal and begin scraping their teeth into their skin or scales until they are able to pierce it and start sucking their blood. Then, they’ll suck all of the blood from their prey, even if it’s a much larger animal.
Once the lamprey has drained its prey of its blood, it will detach and move on to find another animal on which to feed. Crikey! These creepy fish enjoy the act of extracting blood so much that researchers have never found any other contents in their stomachs.
While lamprey fish aren’t necessarily an immediate threat to the well-being of humans around the world, they are eerie enough to keep a lot of people out of the water—or at least checking twice to see if there are any around whenever they take a dip!