Deep-Sea Creatures

For many of you, when you hear the words “under the sea,” your mind wanders to a certain popular animated mermaid. However, at the Aquarium, we think about the aquatic life thriving more than a mile under the sea!

Published February 21, 2019

Much remains unknown about the depths of the ocean, but we do know that the bottom of the sea is cold, pitch black and under tremendous pressure from the water above. Despite this, various species have found a way to thrive in these deep underwater habitats, even at depths of more than a mile below the surface of the water.


About 2 miles below the surface of the water—anywhere between 10,000 and 15,000 feet—we find the Dumbo octopus! These cephalopods can survive pressures of up to 5,000 pounds per square inch in the dark, icy waters that they call home. The Dumbo octopus is named after the iconic Disney character for a reason—it flaps its ear-like fins to move! However, despite the large ears of its namesake, most Dumbo octopuses only grow up to a foot long.

Moving up closer to the surface, the chimaera—also known as the ghost shark—is found a mile and a half below the surface. Ghost sharks inhabited the depths of the ocean since before dinosaurs walked the earth, but much remains unknown about this elusive species. They are distantly related to sharks and rays, with skeletons entirely made out of cartilage and a lack of bones.

At about a mile deep, you’ll find the iconic deep-sea anglerfish. The anglerfish can be identified by its large jaws, armed with a mouth full of sharp teeth. What truly sets the anglerfish out from the crowd is the bright bulb attached to a spiny extension, which not only helps the anglerfish navigate the dark waters, but also attracts its prey!

Our last two deep-sea creatures are each found at about three-quarters of a mile below the surface. The intense pressure of the deep sea could make this area uninhabitable for certain species—but not the blobfish! The blobfish possesses only a few muscles and a unique skeletal structure that allows it to survive extreme pressure.

The vampire squid—also found about three-quarters of a mile below the surface—does not ink like its fellow squid cousins. Instead, it ejects a sticky, bioluminescent mucus that glows for up to 10 minutes. The mucus provides light in a section of the sea dominated by darkness, but also confuses the vampire squid’s predators, allowing the squid to escape.

Learn more about Dumbo octopuses (and their “ears”)!

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