Photograph by Ifremer A. Fifis, Census of Marine Life
The yeti crab is so unusual that a whole new family of animal had to be created to classify it. Kiwa hirsuta was found on the floor of the 7,540-foot-deep (2,300-meter-deep) Pacific Ocean some 900 miles (1,500 kilometers) south of Easter Island. In many ways the newly discovered species remains a mystery. Its hairy pincer arms host colonies of bacteria, which it may cultivate for food, for protection from toxic fluids issuing from nearby volcanic vents, or as “sensors” that help the blind animal find a mate.
Photograph by Enric Sala
This frogfish looks just like its rocky seafloor perch—a guise to tempt a potential meal into coming a bit too close. The fish can change texture and even color to blend with its surroundings. It can also lure potential prey with a fleshy “fishing rod” complete with a wormlike lure. The frogfish is so well adapted to life on the bottom that it uses pectoral fins to waddle, rather than swim, along the seafloor.
Photograph by Luis Miguel Cortes, My Shot
The common octopus is anything but ordinary. This most intelligent of the invertebrates uses an amazing suite of abilities to avoid predators like sharks, eels, and dolphins. A master of camouflage, the octopus can change color and shape to remain unseen, and release a “smoke screen” of black ink when spotted. Even if an octopus has been nabbed, the game isn’t over—it can simply shed an arm to escape trouble and regrow the appendage later.
Photograph by Avi Klapfer/SeaPics.com
A basket star’s many arms and branches form an inescapable web to trap favored prey. Each arm can be four to five times bigger than the animal’s body, and each holds numerous branches that can be knotted around zooplankton and other favored foods that the bottom-dweller filters from the currents.
Photograph by Utsunomiya/e-Photography/SeaPics.com
Finding food at night can be a challenge, but the colorful pinecone fish has a secret weapon—natural headlights. Luminous bacteria colonize two organs on the fish’s lower jaw and produce a beam that helps shine a light on the predator’s next meal.
Photograph by Tim Laman
The ribbon eel has a unique appearance: trumpetlike nostrils and a lower jaw with three tentacles. But even more amazing than this eel’s physiology is its signature behavior—a propensity for sex change. Functioning males regularly become females and change colors as well, adopting a nearly yellow hue that apparently suits their more feminine side.
Flamingo Tongue Snail
Photograph by Denise McNair, My Shot
Common on many Caribbean and Atlantic coral reefs, the flamingo tongue snail feeds on toxic sea fans and not only suffers no harm, it incorporates the fans' venom and becomes toxic itself. Shell collectors are often attracted to the colorful snails, but in fact the shell itself is white—it’s only the living animal inside that produces the striking color pattern.
Photograph by Bartek Jarecki, My Shot
A flying fish glides gracefully through the air, mirrored below by its reflection on the calm waters of the Tasman Sea. There are some 40 species of flying fish. All have evolved winglike pectoral fins that allow them to take to the air after an underwater takeoff sprint at speeds of some 37 miles an hour (60 kilometers an hour). The fish have been known to soar 655 feet (200 meters) in a single flight.
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