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A Certain Number Of Leagues Under The Sea: Photos Of The First Marine Census

Boo!

A dragonfish from the Census of Marine Life

Imagine living in the sea where it is permanently dark and cold -- and food is hard to find. For many animals at depth, there may be weeks or months between meals. If they do find something to eat, they have to hang on to it. This is why so many deep-sea fishes have such big teeth. This dragonfish even has teeth on its tongue! It would be a terrifying animal if it wasn’t the size of a banana. "It can eat something about 10 times its own weight," says scientist Ron O’Dor. "It's really a hollow bag that can be filled up with food." Dr. Julian Finn/Museum Victoria hide caption

itoggle caption Dr. Julian Finn/Museum Victoria

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by two science-y things: deep space and deep sea. I think my interest in the latter started in fourth grade when I saw a photo of an angler fish (click at your own risk) for the first time — and subsequently had nightmares for weeks.

I was also amazed when our science teacher showed us what happens to a styrofoam head when it travels miles below the surface. That is to say, it shrinks. And so would your head, she threatened, if you were not in a pressurized suit or submarine. Maybe she was just trying to freak us out, but regardless: There's so much mystery to what happens below the ocean's surface — which is why today's news is kind of exciting.

For the past decade, 2,700 scientists from 80 countries have been surveying ocean wildlife. Ten years of research culminate today, with the results of the first global Census of Marine Life.

"Presented is an unprecedented picture of the diversity, distribution and abundance of all kinds of marine life," the news release states, "from microbes to whales, from the icy poles to the warm tropics, from tidal near shores to the deepest dark depths."

You can see more photos on the census website, including a gallery of new species. But here are some of my favorites taken over the past decade, as explained by Ron O'Dor, cephalopod biologist and senior scientist for the Census of Marine Life. Sorry, no angler fish. I wouldn't wish that nightmare on anyone.

  • "This creature will in a couple of days be called Dinochelus ausubeli. ... Aren't you jealous?" Ron O'Dor explains that this blind lobster was named after the census co-founder. "No one has ever seen a lobster with such divergent claws. Normally lobsters that we eat have one big claw and one little one," he says. (Tin-Yam Chan/National Taiwan Ocean University, Keelung).
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    "This creature will in a couple of days be called Dinochelus ausubeli. ... Aren't you jealous?" Ron O'Dor explains that this blind lobster was named after the census co-founder. "No one has ever seen a lobster with such divergent claws. Normally lobsters that we eat have one big claw and one little one," he says. (Tin-Yam Chan/National Taiwan Ocean University, Keelung).
    Courtesy of the Census of Marine Life
  • This clam was found during a reefs expedition on Ningaloo Island, Australia. "It's a clam that functions kind of like an anemone. You can call them taste organs," O'Dor says.
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    This clam was found during a reefs expedition on Ningaloo Island, Australia. "It's a clam that functions kind of like an anemone. You can call them taste organs," O'Dor says.
    Gary Cranitch/Queensland Museum/Courtesy of the Census of Marine Life
  • "These are part of a group of octopuses that really have an amazing story," O'Dor explains. "DNA has traced back 40 million years to a common ancestor in Antarctica."  They are juvenile representatives of the Antarctic and deep-sea genera of octopuses, smaller than a baseball in size.
    Hide caption
    "These are part of a group of octopuses that really have an amazing story," O'Dor explains. "DNA has traced back 40 million years to a common ancestor in Antarctica." They are juvenile representatives of the Antarctic and deep-sea genera of octopuses, smaller than a baseball in size.
    I. Everson, M. Rauschert, L. Alcock/Courtesy of the Census of Marine Life
  • A polychaete found on an Australian coral reef. According to O'Dor, "They can be up to a foot long."
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    A polychaete found on an Australian coral reef. According to O'Dor, "They can be up to a foot long."
    Gary Cranitch/Queensland Museum/Courtesy of the Census of Marine Life
  • O'Dor explains that most of the sabellids, or fan worms, that appear in the census are from deep-sea vents, where they feed on bacteria near the warm water of the vents. "Some of the color," he says, "is associated with the process of symbiosis. ... They often have some kind of an iron compound associated with them."
    Hide caption
    O'Dor explains that most of the sabellids, or fan worms, that appear in the census are from deep-sea vents, where they feed on bacteria near the warm water of the vents. "Some of the color," he says, "is associated with the process of symbiosis. ... They often have some kind of an iron compound associated with them."
    Gary Cranitch/Queensland Museum/Courtesy of the Census of Marine Life
  • White-topped coral crab, collected from dead coral head off Heron Island, Australia.
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    White-topped coral crab, collected from dead coral head off Heron Island, Australia.
    Gary Cranitch/Queensland Museum/Courtesy of the Census of Marine Life
  • Pelagic amphipod in salp, Gulf of Mexico. "A salp," O'Dor says, "is a kind of bag-of-jelly organism that pumps water through itself, and sometimes they can move around — and so we're really looking at two organisms."
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    Pelagic amphipod in salp, Gulf of Mexico. "A salp," O'Dor says, "is a kind of bag-of-jelly organism that pumps water through itself, and sometimes they can move around — and so we're really looking at two organisms."
    Texas A&M Press, College Station, Tex./Courtesy of the Census of Marine Life
  • "Angels in a dark sea" is the nickname for this creature — "a kind of snail that, instead of using its foot to crawl around ... it extends its foot and uses it as wings to float through the water."
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    "Angels in a dark sea" is the nickname for this creature — "a kind of snail that, instead of using its foot to crawl around ... it extends its foot and uses it as wings to float through the water."
    Russ Hopcroft/University of Alaska Fairbanks/Courtesy of the Census of Marine Life
  • A new ghost shrimp from Captain Arutyunov mud volcano, Gulf of Cadiz. This is not the kind of shrimp you would want to eat. "It essentially lives in the mud and that's why it doesn't need any color," O'Dor says.
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    A new ghost shrimp from Captain Arutyunov mud volcano, Gulf of Cadiz. This is not the kind of shrimp you would want to eat. "It essentially lives in the mud and that's why it doesn't need any color," O'Dor says.
    M. R. Cunha/Aveiro University/Courtesy of the Census of Marine Life
  • A jellyfish collected from the deep Arctic Canada Basin by a remotely operated vehicle. In the Arctic, O'Dor says, "there's an incredible abundance of jellyfish, most of them new species."
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    A jellyfish collected from the deep Arctic Canada Basin by a remotely operated vehicle. In the Arctic, O'Dor says, "there's an incredible abundance of jellyfish, most of them new species."
    Kevin Raskoff/Courtesy of the Census of Marine Life

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