There’s a whole weird, wet world out there
In partnership with The Ocean Agency. The non-profit creative agency of record for the ocean.
Illustrations by Brittany Norris
We’re not going to get into how much of the Earth’s surface is covered in water or how little we know about the depths of the ocean when compared to the surface of the moon because we want to get right into telling you all about all the strange and alien life that lived in it.
Rocky reefs along the southern coastline of Australia
Neither an actual dragon nor a horse nor a weed
Despite being weedy, the ladies love their male counterparts—for good reason—it’s the males that get pregnant and give birth to the baby dragons.
All tropical and subtropical seas
Literally ties itself in knots to flush prey out of small spaces
When little fish have nightmares, it’s usually about moray eels. Once it bites a fish, the second set of jaws flies out and pulls the fish inside. If you’ve seen Alien, you get the idea.
West Coast of North America, East Coast of North America, and Western Europe
Don’t call it a jellyfish, they hate that
A hydrozoan (a class of predatory animals, distantly related to corals, sea anemones, and jellies) that lives on the surface of the water in colonies. Each individual has a triangular “sail” that protrudes from its back—some angled to the port side, some to starboard so they don’t all get stranded by storms
Way up north in the Arctic Ocean
Actually a real animal
This dolphinesque unicorn might be far more famous if its name wasn’t quite so Icelandic and its appearance quite so mythical.
Not the most popular
To protect themselves from predators, cheerleader crabs pick up stinging anemones and wave them around like pom poms. It’s very encouraging looking when you’re halfway through a dive.
They have no gills, no lungs, no organs for breathing at all
Just your standard-issue, creepy, crawly, underwater, swimming nightmare fuel that sucks the life out of its prey, inhabits every ocean in the world, and can grow to the size of a dinner plate.
Mostly in North Atlantic Ocean
Can camouflage themselves as rocks, sponges, or seaweed
Shallow-water anglerfish are the ocean’s speed-eating champions. They can eat a fish twice their size in exactly half a split second. It’s impressive.
The Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans in temperate and tropical waters
Best admired from afar
Might sound like a Roman gladiator’s name, which is appropriate for this certified badass sea slug that hunts Portuguese man o’ war jellyfish and steals their stingers to use later as weapons.
Throughout the Indo-Pacific
Fond of quoting Joe Pesci in Goodfellas
Build nests on the ocean floor and any large creature that passes them gets a headbutt
Hot ocean vents near Antarctica
Nothing to do with the coolers
The only known huggable crab in the long history of crabs. Also, eats bacteria that are fertilized on their own leg hairs.
Deep waters off of Australia and New Zealand
Not to be confused with the senator from Texas who prefers to vacation in Cancun when his state is experiencing a natural disaster
Looking really ugly is clearly a good strategy for not getting eaten. Bet you’ve never seen herb-crusted blobfish on a menu.
Way down in the deep Pacific ocean
Voted the cutest deep-sea creature every year since its discovery
They use their ear-like fins to propel themselves through the water and navigate currents. No feather required.
Warmer waters of Pacific and Indian Oceans
She’s the boss
All clownfish are born male but actually possess the ability to change sex. The change is irreversible (but then why would they want to reverse such a smart move?).
Subtropic and tropic waters at surface level
We’re going with the detachable penis thing here
The most beautiful Nautilus are the ones with paper-thin shells. The only downside is they’re too fragile to have any contact with the opposite sex. Fortunately, they have evolved detachable swimming penises.
Found in shallow tropical seas and estuaries of the Atlantic Ocean
Can grow as large as 20 feet long
It’s hard to imagine that the sawfish doesn’t wish that it was a shark. Having teeth on your nose makes chewing challenging.
Over your head
Can glide in the air for as far as 650 feet
For some reason, a fish that can fly is a lot more impressive than a bird that can swim.
Venus Flower Basket
Deep on the ocean floor near the Philippine Islands
Smarter than the techs at Verizon
Ahead of their time, these sponges contain glass-like structures that transmit light better than our best fibre optic cables, inspiring next-gen technology.
Tropical sea cucumbers’ butts
They live in the butts of sea cucumbers
Yeah, that’s about it. Just the butt thing.
Mostly between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn
Blows most other creatures away with its superpowers
After half a billion years of evolution, it can clone itself and technically live forever. It can turn seawater into stone and build giant cities that dwarf those built by humans. It can grow its food in its own flesh and even create clouds in the sky to cool itself down. Respect is long overdue.
Atlantic and Pacific oceans, from the Bahamas to New Zealand
“Ice-cream scoop shark” might be a more accurate name
It was a mystery why sharks, dolphins, and other large ocean creatures were spotted with perfectly round cookie-size holes in their side. Then the cookiecutter shark was discovered with a cookie-size set of teeth. Mystery solved.
Christmas Tree Worms
Tropical coral reefs worldwide
So bizarre and alien it had a non-speaking role in Avatar
Worms on land look like worms. Worms in the ocean get far more creative. It comes in assorted colors and instantly disappears down its hole when approached.
Sea of Japan to Southern Australia
The blue rings on these little fellas only appear when they are really pissed—it’s good to remember that
Don’t underestimate these little guys. They have a bite so toxic it’s enough to kill 24 humans despite the octopus being only about 5cm in size.
Indian and Pacific Oceans between East Africa and Hawaii
Nicknamed “thumb splitter”—pick one up and find out why
The mantis shrimp has the fastest punch in the ocean. It’s so fast it strikes at the speed of a .22 bullet. The speed causes the surrounding water to vaporize, exploding their prey. Needless to say, people who put them in their glass aquariums quickly regret the decision.
Deep waters near, you guessed it, the Galapagos Islands
Never asked to be the face of Maybelline (not yet anyway)
No that’s not lipstick. Nature likes doing experiments in the Galapagos Islands but arguably went a little too far with this batfish.
Reefs and channels around the globe
Have not one, not two, but three hearts
Masters of disguise, smaller cuttlefish have been known to cross-dress as females allowing them to avoid the macho fights during mating season, getting their six legs all over the best looking ladies. It’s known as survival of the sneakiest.
Reefs off the coast Western Australia
Might use bioluminescence to communicate
When you’re a fish and you look like a pineapple it’s wise to hide from humans. Pineapple fish are usually found hiding in dark caves. They’ve spent so long hiding, they’ve evolved light organs under their eyes they use as torches to find food.
Temperate and tropical oceans around the world
Can weigh more than a car
A fish so odd they named it twice—with an odd name and bizarrely human face to match. At up to 10 feet long is the world’s largest bony fish.