The Earth’s oceans are less explored than the vastness of space. We know what’s out there, but we don’t know the true depths of what lives in our oceans. But we’re about to reveal to you some of the mysteries that dwell beneath the surface. A few you may have heard of before, but many of these underwater animals have never been seen outside the realm of science. Get ready to gaze upon amazing sea creatures with superpower-like abilities.
Tardigrades Are The Ultimate Survivalists
If aliens came to visit Earth, they might see that humans have done the most to subdue the planet and build a civilization; nevertheless, tardigrades have been the most resilient creature in history. These microscopic sea creatures, also known as “water bears,” have inhabited just about every corner of the Earth at some point in history.
They have been around for about half a billion years, making them possibly the longest-lived of any organism that scientists have ever discovered. They are only about half a millimeter long, but under a microscope, they look like a hulking creature that you might expect to find in Jabba the Hutt’s palace in Star Wars.
Remember the scene from the second Harry Potter movie when the teacher cast a spell that made Harry’s arm bone disappear? Hagfish are kind of like Harry’s arm in that scene – they are the only known animal to have a skull but no spine. Their floppy arms are connected to a head.
However, they have a pretty awesome superpower: they shoot out the slime to ward off potential predators, or any creatures that might try to share their meal. To prevent from choking on their own slime, they can sneeze it out.
Electric Eels Generate 600 Volts Of Electrical Energy
Eels look a bit like underwater snakes, but they are a kind of fish. Electric eels may be the most well-known kind, but you do not want to come across an electric eel. When threatened, these guys can emit a massive shock of electricity, equal to 600 volts.
That kind of shock could stun an adult human and even cause electrocution. Yet the eel is biologically hard-wired not to be adversely affected by the electricity coursing through the water – it has specialized cells that protect it from being electrocuted.
Mantis shrimp can grow to be about a foot long, which is quite impressive for a shrimp but still on the small side. But it has a superpower that more than makes up for its small size: punching. The punch of a mantis shrimp is as fast as a bullet.
This punch is so fast that it rapidly heats the surrounding water and can even create a shock wave that can stun nearby creatures. The punch and the ensuing shock wave can also break the hard shell of other crustaceans. Pretty cool, huh?
Box Jellyfish Are The Most Poisonous Species In The World
If you have spent much time on the beach, you may know firsthand that jellyfish stings can be quite unpleasant. However, stings from a box jellyfish can be deadly. About 100 people die every year from their pains. These creatures live around Indonesia and Northern Australia, so if you plan to visit beaches in the area, be careful.
Box jellyfish can be hard to see, as their bodies are transparent. Nevertheless, their tentacles can be up to 10 feet long and have as many as 5000 stinging cells. A sting can cause someone’s heart to stop and lead to death within minutes. Survivors of these stings report pain that lasts for weeks.
Sailfish can grow to be upwards of 11 feet long, and they are named after their impressive sail-like fins that help them glide through the water almost effortlessly. These bluish-grey fish also have elongated bills that help them catch their prey.
The fastest fish in the ocean is the sailfish. They have been known to hit speeds of 68 miles per hour. That’s about as fast as you can go on a highway without getting a speeding ticket! The sailfish’s sleek body and powerful sail-like fin give it the ability to swim so incredibly quickly.
Cuttlefish are like the sea’s chameleons, as they can quickly change color to blend in with their surroundings. This camouflaging allows them to hide from potential predators and stealthily stalk out their next meal.
And while cuttlefish may have “fish” in their name, they are cephalopods, meaning that they are more closely related to octopus and squid. They have eight tentacles and two arms, as well as a calcified shell that provides protection. Moreover, they also have green blood and three hearts to pump it throughout their bodies.
Platypuses are one of nature’s real anomalies. They have a duck-like bill, but they are mammals, but even though they are mammals, they lay eggs. Moreover, they shoot poison out of their hind feet, also though very few mammals are poisonous.
To make them even stranger, the bill of the platypus is lined with thousands of electrical sensors that allow the animal to target its prey from far away accurately. These electrical sensors are so powerful that, whether the platypus is in the water or on land, it doesn’t have to use its eyes or ears to locate its prey.
There are some pretty awesome animals out there that can regrow body parts that fall off. Some lizards can spontaneously shed their tails to escape from an enemy, and then they grow their tails back. And starfish regrow arms that fall off.
Planarians, though, take the cake. These microscopic creatures can reproduce indefinitely, and each piece that falls off grows into an entirely new planarian. They’re kind of like the mythological Hydra – cut off the head, and another head grows back along with an altogether new planarian.
Salmon Use The Earth’s Magnetic Field To Navigate Thousands Of Miles
Salmon are known for their health benefits when they end up on someone’s dinner plate, but these incredible fish should also be recognized for their super navigation skills. Salmon eggs hatch in freshwater, and when the fish are big enough, they swim up to 2000 miles to the open sea.
When the time comes for them to lay eggs, they go back upstream – sometimes thousands of miles – to spawn in the same place where they were originally hatched. They are attuned to the Earth’s magnetic field and follow their patterns to return to their original home.
Sea cucumbers are not underwater vegetables but a type of animal that lives on the ocean floor. They have long been used in Eastern medicine for their healing properties, including the ability to cure certain types of cancer! Some of the compounds they produce are antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, so they are beneficial for all illnesses.
Moreover, sea cucumbers also have their own elegant trick. When faced with a predator, they shoot a sticky thread out to confuse their predators before shooting their internal organs from their anuses—basically flying organ poop. They then reproduce those missing organs, so no harm is done.
Sea Slugs Are The Only Known Animals That Can Photosynthesize
Photosynthesis is the process by which plants can capture sunlight and convert it into energy. Furthermore, sea slugs are the only animals that scientists know can also photosynthesize sunlight into energy.
Sea slugs can use the chloroplasts – the parts of the plant cells that perform photosynthesis – from the algae that they eat. However, even more astonishing, they have taken the genetic code from the algae that enable them to produce their own chloroplasts! So basically, sea slugs are a plant and an animal, all in one.
Tigerfish have hunting abilities that rival the tigers that you find on land (but don’t want to encounter in person). The most abundant species of tigerfish, the goliath tigerfish, get up to be 110 pounds and has giant, tiger-like teeth. Its Swahili name, Mbenga, literally translates as “dangerous fish,” at least partly because it can eat crocodiles!
Goliath tigerfish have been known to attack people. The Congo locals fear them because even the sight of it is viewed as an evil spirit. Fishers consider it to be the most magnificent freshwater fish in the world.
Black Swallowers Can Gulp Down Prey Twice Their Body Length
Black swallowers look like ordinary fish on top, with a sleek body, fins, and a tail. Nevertheless, underneath, they have a large stomach to hold the enormous meals that they swallow. A black swallower can take prey twice its length, and up to 10 times its mass!
These creatures open up their lower jaws and gradually slide them over their prey, swallowing them whole. Nevertheless, don’t worry; you are not likely to encounter a black swallower, at least not in the wild. They live in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic at depths of up to 10,000 feet.
Pirate perches are born with their anus in the usual spot, but as the fish mature, the anus migrates. By the time the pirate perch is an adult, the anus has moved up to underneath its chin. Presumably, its entire digestive tract is also shifting to keep up.
Pirate perches have another unique ability that scientists are trying to understand – and this ability is useful instead of just weird (and gross). They can disguise their chemical signature so that the insects that they feed off of do not know that the predator is nearby. Insects will happily choose to live in a pond containing pirate perch, blissfully unaware that they are about to become dinner.
Archerfish are pretty small, coming in at only about four inches in length when fully grown. So while they may not be worth trying to catch, they would undoubtedly be amusing to watch as they feed on insects, including mosquitoes, which live out of the water.
However, how do they get those insects from the surface into their mouths? They first identify their prey, usually perched on an overhanging limb or other vegetation, and then shoot a jet of water to knock the insect down. They then enjoy a fresh meal, and you get to enjoy a world with fewer mosquitoes.
Have you heard the maxim that everybody is an Einstein, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will always believe it is stupid? Who said that had never encountered the mudfish, a fish that could climb trees? And not underwater trees, but trees above the surface.
Mudfish have little sacs around their gills that allow them to hold their breath when they are above water. And surprisingly, they do spend quite a bit of their time above water! They usually live among mangrove trees and climb the trees to avoid high tide.
Teddy Bear Crabs Are Ferocious, Anemone-Wielding Monsters
The thought of a teddy bear crab may sound cute and cuddly, but the real things are quite fierce. Though they are covered with furry white hair, they attack their prey by picking up sea anemones and wielding the poisonous creatures as weapons.
However, to make the teddy bear crab even more of a horrifying creature that belongs in nightmares, or at least in a scary movie, it will reach inside the sea anemone and take from its digestive tract any food that it recently ate. So it is a teddy bear wielding a poisonous live animal as a weapon that is unafraid to eat what that weapon is currently digesting.
This amphibious creature lives most of its life on land but returns to the water to lay eggs. When hatched, the tadpoles begin their aquatic lives with an astounding ferocity: they have horned teeth – several rows of teeth, in fact – and are surprisingly muscular.
The adults not only have hair on their bodies but also have hooks. Unlike authentic claws, they are not made of keratin (the stuff your fingernails are made of) but bone. These frogs break the bones of their toes and then push them out through their skin. Unsurprisingly, African hairy frogs are also known as Wolverine frogs, after the character in X-Men.
If you cut your arm off, it wouldn’t grow back. Lizards are known for regrowing their tails when they’re snapped off, but did you know that starfish are capable of regrowing their limbs if they have to regrow them?
Like lizards, starfish can shed their arms as a defense mechanism, such as a predator holding on them. Instead of allowing themselves to become a tasty snack, their arms can pop right off. It will take some time for their arms to full regrow, but it’s better than being eaten.
It’s a myth that fish can fly, but seeing them in action is something to behold. Their bodies’ shape is almost like a torpedo, allowing them to swim at high speeds of 35 mph. This speed is enough to propel them out of the water, and their wing-like fins make it easy for them to continue moving forward. It’s not every day you get to see an entire school of fish skimming the ocean’s surface.
It seems like something out of a Super Mario Bros. Nintendo game. If you got hit with one of these flying fish, it would hurt, to say the least.
The stonefish isn’t the prettiest thing to look at, and for good reason. If you ever came in contact with one, you would be in big trouble. Why? They’re some of the most poisonous fish within the oceans. But that’s not all they have going for them. Seriously, there is something worse than that.
Within their skulls, they have hidden “switchblades” that they can shoot out to defend themselves from predators. Think of it as a poisonous rattlesnake that can also throw a knife at you. It would be best to leave this fish alone.
The octopus is just one of many creatures within the ocean, capable of changing its skin color. Cuttlefish are also capable of changing their coloration to various colors and patterns.
Nevertheless, the mimic octopus is the best of the bunch. It’s so talented that it can impersonate at least fifteen other aquatic animals to fool the unsuspecting, including looking like a lionfish or a sea snake. These disguises can be used to draw in prey or scare away bigger predators.
Humanity has been looking for the secret of youth and long life for centuries when the answer has been in the ocean this entire time.
The Turritopsis jellyfish, either when nearing the end of its life or has been injured, will return to the ocean floor and fold in on itself. Then it will return to its polyp stage to start its life all over again. No one knows how it’s capable of doing this, but it’s a mystery scientists would like to solve.
Chitons are found thousands of feet under the ocean’s surface, mostly near volcanic spouts where you won’t find much life. However, this adaptation to these acidic waters has allowed them to grow magnetite teeth, the strongest substance ever made by a creature.
Magnetite alone requires very high pressures and temperatures to be made, but chitons have figured out how to make it perfectly.
Strange to have two shrimp on this list, but the pistol shrimp is nothing like the mantis shrimp. It has one claw that is significantly larger than the other, which is its weapon of choice.
The muscles within this more massive claw are so strong that the shrimp can shoot a “bullet bubble” at its prey to stun it. This action happens so fast that the surrounding temperature of the bubble can reach up to 4,000 degrees Celsius!
Armored snails live near hydrothermal vents, where this is many minerals being spewed up into the water. These snails have adapted to incorporating these minerals into their shells and their feet so that they’re protected from the high temperatures… as well as anything that may want to eat them.
Its foot looks quite scaly, giving it the name “scaly-foot snail,” which is the result of layers of iron sulfides outside its body.
The furry-clawed crab looks quite cuddly, but that fur is not for adorable appearances. The crab is blind, and the hair along its arms catches any microbes floating around in the water for the crab to eat. It waves its arms around in front of it to trap particulates and then sucks any food out of the fur. Not looking so cuddly now, is it?
The goblin shark is considered one of the weirdest-looking sharks out there, and that’s mostly because of what it does with its jaws when it encounters prey. The goblin shark can seemingly extend its entire upper and lower jaw ahead of its face to catch prey, and then pull its food back into its head for digestion. The process can look a bit terrifying, but whatever works to keep the goblin shark’s belly full.
Being able to survive the harsh world of the oceans requires much talent and that extra special something that either keeps you alive or keeps your belly full. With very little human interaction with sea life, these creatures have likely existed this way for thousands of years, unaffected by the goings-on of the planet above the waves.
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“10 Underwater Animals With Astonishing Abilities,” by Alan Boyle. Listverse. January 28, 2014.
“35 Utterly Weird Sea Animals.” Popular Mechanics. 2019.
“6 Ocean Super Powers Aquaman Wishes He Had.” Ocean Conservancy. December 2018.