The Deep Dark Depths


via The Washington Post

A black dragon fish

 The deep oceans. What hides beneath the waves? What mysteries are left to uncover in the depths? Humans know more about the moon than about the deep sea, and deep down are fascinating creatures that look like they are from a horror movie. Sometimes these creatures are just weird, some are horrifying, and some are the stuff of nightmares, but no matter what, these are actual living beings that are sentient and feel pain. When diving deep, scientists have encountered amazing creatures, known as the Black Dragonfish and the Humboldt Squid.

The black dragonfish, or Idiacanthus Atlanticus, is a terrifying creature that lives up to two kilometers deep. They can be found in the deep waters of the Indo-Pacific ocean. They are about 6.5 to 15 inches long and weigh about 0.02 to 0.03 pounds. These animals are sexually dimorphic, which means that males and females have different body structures. Their diet is mainly other fish, and they also have a stretchy stomach and have been found with fish twice as big as them in their stomach.

Now, what’s next is truly scary. The black dragonfish has a flexible hinge connecting their skull and spine, allowing them to dislocate their head. This, plus their ability to extend their jaws out, allows black dragonfish to open their mouths to about 90 degrees. Human mouths can only extend to about 25 degrees! This feature allows them to swallow huge things compared to their body.

Black dragonfish also have an organ beneath their eyes that shines a red light. Because the red light from the sun doesn’t reach down that deep, most creatures can’t see it. Dragonfish can, however. They have a flashlight that allows them to see prey and predators, but their prey and predators can’t see the light. This allows them to find food easier and escape detection.

The combination of these traits makes them a small but terrifying predator. However, a much bigger predator is known as the Humboldt squid or Dosidicus Gigas. These squids seem to be taking over the ocean, and they are one of the few creatures that benefit from the actions of humanity. Human activity, like behaviors contributing to Global Warming, often causes sections of the ocean to become oxygen low, preventing sea creatures from surviving in these areas. Humboldt squid can survive in these waters, however, so people are essentially creating Humboldt squid breeding grounds. Humboldt squid also must lay eggs in warm waters, so global warming is expanding the range of places in which they can lay their eggs.

They are aggressive animals that can grow up to 2.5 meters long and weigh up to 100 pounds. They are also incredibly strong and can dislocate someone’s arm underwater. This is astounding because you can’t get leverage underwater. Their beaks (yes, squids and octopuses have beaks) are also incredibly strong. When scientists put a kevlar pressure plate in between the two halves of a captive Humboldt squid’s beak, the squid broke the pressure plate in half.

Humboldt squid are also intelligent. They will sometimes work together in a group to take down prey. A frightening account from Scott Cassell shows just how aggressive they are. He was diving when he was attacked by several Humboldt squid. One shattered his wrist with a single bite. Another dislocated his arm. He actually had to revert to using his arm as a club to fight off the squid.

These creatures are also known as the red devil in some regions for two reasons. One is their coloring. They are usually dark red in color that looks like dried blood. The other reason is their aggressive nature. They also have toothed suction cups on their arms and tentacles. They have eight arms, which are short with suction cups all along the length of the arm, but the tentacles have suction cups only on the end.

These two creatures have two things in common. They are both terrifying predators that live in the dark depths of the ocean, and we don’t know what is still out there, left to be discovered. We may even find a humboldt squid-sized dragonfish, or an actual sea dragon. Now that would be terrifying.