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The Australian Dragonfish (Dr. Julian Finn, Museum Victoria)

Weird Creatures From the Deep

A massive census of the oceans has turned up a trove of strange marine wildlife, from jellyfish to octopuses to anemones

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Australian-dragonfish
(Brian Wolly)
Food can be scarce in the deep waters off Australia. To clutch its prey, this dragonfish uses sharp rows of teeth that cover even parts of its tongue. The fish is one of thousands of species documented by the Census of Marine Life, a ten-year project that is nearing completion. Across its 25 study sites on all seven continents, the Census has found that fish account for an average of 12 percent of all underwater life. Although waters off Australia's tropical northern coast share many species with the Indo-West Pacific, scientists have found that Australia's more temperate—and isolated—southern waters host species that are found nowhere else. Up to 90 percent of the species are endemic, more than in any other region studied by the Census. However, scientists estimate that only around 10 percent of Australia’s marine species are known today.

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