When you’re hanging out on the beach, everything seems great: sand, sun, saltwater, and salt on the rim of your margarita glass. But whether you know it or not, you’re probably rubbing elbows with some pretty strange creatures. Here are 7 of the sea’s stranger denizens.
Sea CucumberSoft, delicious, and slow-moving, the sea cucumber would seem like easy prey. It’s come up with one of the weirdest—and perhaps most disturbing—defeneses. When threatened, it ejects part of its own internal organs, along with a filamentous goo that distracts and coats predators. The cucumber slinks away and regrows intestines at its leisure. Don’t try this at home.
NudibranchAlso known as sea slugs, nudibranchs are a group of animals that live in tidepools and shallow waters. Unlike slugs, they’re phenomenally colorful. Their color advertises the fact that they’re covered with stinging cells, warning predators away. What’s deeply weird is how they got those stinging cells. Nudibranchs eat the stinging tentacles off anemones, one of the most powerful weapons in the sea. They then incorporate them into their own body, placing them on the wavy tentacles of their back as a defense against predators. It’s like if you wanted to have a stinger on the end of each finger, and you could get one by eating a beehive and not even get stung.
BarnaclesWhen we see their hard shells on rocks, the life of a barnacle seems pretty routine. That’s far from the truth. The larvae are free-swimming, weird-looking translucent creatures wandering around in the ocean. Then the glue their heads to a rock with a glue so strong the US Navy has tried to mimic it (and failed). They grow a hard shell around themselves they can close at low tide. When the water covers them, they open the door, and collect food out of the water column by grabbing it with their feet. And if you think that’s weird, wait until you hear how they reproduce with their head glued to the rocks.
As the name implies, Angerfish are fish that go fishing. Lots of fish eat other fish, but not this way. A creature of the deep, nearly-lightless sea, the Anglerfish sports a filament that emerges from it’s forehead, with a bioluminescent blob on the end. It casts the end back and forth much like a fisherman’s lure, and when other fish are drawn close, the anglerfish grabs them in its gaping mouth.
Vampire SquidAnother inhabitant of the deep seas, the Vampire Squid lives right at the edge of sunlight penetration. When threatened, it releases ink—but not just any ink, bioluminescent ink. This distracts the potential predator, while the squid hurries away. If that doesn’t work, Vampire Squid turn themselves “inside out” pulling their arms over their head, stretching a spiny mantle over themselves. Sucking blood is one thing they don’t do.
OctopusThe octopus is more than a weird-looking fellow with eight tentacles. Their entire body is squishable, and can fit through anything they can squeeze the only hard part of their body through: their small beak. Even their eyeballs can squish down. Octopuses can also change color to match their surroundings. They need all this maneuverability and camofluage to stay away from predators, since they don’t have spines, speed, claws, or teeth to defend themselves. They also survive by their considerable intelligence: many biologists consider them about as smart as a cat.