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

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

Boo!

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

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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."

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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.