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Friday, May 3, 2019

Sea Creatures Part 3 – Animals of the Abyss


We’ve reached the final blog post for sea creatures featured in Shark Station. In this post, I’ll be covering the mysterious creatures of the deep. If you’ve happened to miss the previous two parts of this special, click here for part 1 and here for part 2. Except for the barreleye fish, the other creatures in this blog post were new to me until I began researching for this novel. However, scientific research is still lacking for each species featured in this post, so I’ll apologize now for the limited information. If you’d like to read more, you can click my reference links at the bottom.   

Dumbo octopus

NOAA Okeanos Explorer [Public domain]

There are over 15 known species of Dumbo octopuses, but the one featured in Shark Station is Grimpoteuthis abyssicola. The Dumbo octopus gets its common name from the Disney movie because of its large fins that resemble ears. G. abyssicola stands out compared to other Dumbo octopuses due to the blue coloration on its mantle, with pink “ear flaps” that are actually its fins. Typically, they are between 20-30cm (7.9-11.8in) long, but the largest recorded individual weighed 5.9kg (13lbs) and was 1.8m (5.9ft) long(1). Distributed throughout the Pacific Ocean from Oregon down to New Zealand, they live between depths of 3,000-7,000m (9842.5-22,965.9ft). Their diet consists of crustaceans like amphipods, copepods, isopods and also bristle worms. They find their food either floating in the ocean or lurking around hydrothermal vents(2). As for creatures that prey on the Dumbo octopus, sharks, tuna, and marine mammals such as dolphins are their main predators(1).
The Dumbo octopus is also nicknamed the “umbrella octopus;” the reason being their various ways of movement(2). Most commonly they use their fins to “flap” through the water and their tentacles to steer(1). However, they can also expand or contract their webbed tentacles, which resembles the opening and closing of an umbrella, hence their nickname. Other forms of locomotion include forcing water through their funnel to gain a burst of speed or crawling on their tentacles(2).

Dumbo octopuses differ from other octopus in a variety of ways. For one, they lack an ink sack other octopus species use to evade predation(1). Unlike other octopuses, they don’t have to use their beak to tear into their food. They have a degenerated radula that permits them to swallow prey intact(2). Dumbo octopuses are oviparous and lay their eggs on the ocean floor. The females are able to retain sperm and allow fertilization of their eggs at any time, which suggests that there is no breeding period for this genus(1).

According to the IUCN Red List, this species is data deficient as of August 20, 2014, meaning that not enough data has been collected on them to assess whether or not their populations are at risk(3).

If you would like to see footage of a Dumbo octopus swimming courtesy of the Smithsonian Institute, click here


Gerringer M. E., Linley T. D., Jamieson A. J., Goetze E., Drazen J. C. [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]

Although there are over 300 species of snailfish, the one seen in Shark Station is Pseudoliparis swirei, which is known as the Mariana snailfish. They are pinkish-white in coloration with translucent skin that allows the internal organs and muscles to be seen beneath the skin. They have small eyes and the rows of teeth increases with the size of the fish. Unlike many other species of fish, snailfish have no scales. They range from 89-235mm (3.5-9.3in) long and live at depths of 6,900-8,000m (22,637.8-26,246.7ft). As they were recently discovered, very little is known about this species(4).

To see video footage of a live snailfish, click here

Barreleye Fish


The barreleye fish (Macropinna microstoma) are peculiar-looking fish that have eyes facing upward instead of outward(5). The area where most people mistake their eyes to be are actually their olfactory organs. The eyes rest in a green fluid that fills the entire front area of the head. Their head is translucent, which allows the barreleye to see through its head to its prey lurking above. Ambush predators, they lie in wait before attacking their prey. To scan for prey, they have the ability to rotate their eyes. While they wait, their flat fins allow them to lie motionless in the water and only take off once prey has been detected. Jellyfish and other cnidarians make up their diet but it is also thought that they may eat zooplankton(5)(7). Since they have a large digestive system, it suggests that they may eat a variety of drifting animals(6).

Solitary creatures that live in the mesopelagic zone, their distribution ranges from The Bering Sea in the North, Japan to the West, and Baja California in the South. In the Pacific Ocean, they are known to live at depths of 16-1267m (52.5-4,156.8ft) and they have been caught in trawl nets as deep as 3600m (11,811ft) (7). However, they are distributed worldwide in all but the polar oceans(5).

If you'd like to see a live specimen of a barreleye fish, check out this video by Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI).

This concludes the last sea creature feature for Shark Station. I hope you enjoyed reading it. From now on until the next special, the blog posts will be released every three weeks. As usual, my next blog post will be the sharing of some of the research I conducted for the novel (beyond that on the sea creatures). In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, you can leave them here on my blog or email me at elizataye@gmail.com. I always love hearing from my readers!


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