The Scariest Monsters of the Deep Sea

We took the spook-tacular celebration to the depths of the ocean, where some of the craziest—and scariest—looking creatures lurk in the dark

frilled shark
Frilled Shark Wikicommons

Red Octopus (Stauroteuthis syrtensis)

Red Octopus
(Ocean Portal / David Shale)
This red octopus is eerily beautiful. Found in the deep Atlantic waters off the U.S. Coast, the eight arms of Stauroteuthis syrtensis are connected by webbing that it uses to swim. Rows of glowing bioluminescent suckers trail down its eight arms and glow in the deep-sea. Scientists think these glow-in-the-dark suckers may be used to attract planktonic prey like insects drawn to a light. The species has been recognized for at least 100 years, but it wasn't until 1999 that scientists realized it glowed.

Deep sea blob sculpin (Psychrolutes phrictus)

Deep-sea blob sculpin
(Ocean Portal / NOAA, Alaska Fisheries Science Center)

Remember the horror movie, The Blob? This sculpin bears some resemblance to the invading alien. These fish are usually found at depths of up to 2,800 meters along the U.S. West coast and can get caught in nets that indiscriminately trawl the seafloor for commercially important species like crabs.

Sea Pigs (genus Scotoplanes)

None
(Courtesy of flickr user neptunecanada)
You’re probably familiar with seahorses, but what about sea pigs? These oinkers have several legs and are actually a type of sea cucumber found in very deep waters throughout the world’s ocean. Researchers have seen sea pigs in large groups numbered in the hundreds, crawling along the sea floor.

The Goblin Shark (Mitsukurina owstoni)

Goblin Shark
(Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
The goblin shark is reminiscent of a prehistoric dinosaur with its long snout, small eyes and jagged teeth. The shark's extended snout helps it look for food on the ocean floor and its jaw extends and retracts.

The Proboscis Worm (Parborlasia corrugatus)

Proboscis worm
(Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
The proboscis worm grows to lengths up to two meters and scavenges for grub on the seafloor. These worms will eat pretty much anything they come across and have few—if any—predators.

Zombie Worms (Osedax roseus)

Zombie worms
(Ocean Portal / Yoshihiro Fujiwara / JAMSTEC)
Zombie worms live in the bones of dead whales. With no mouth, anus or gut, the four-centimeter-long worms survive by secreting an acid that breaks up the whalebone. With the help of a symbiotic partner-in-crime (bacteria that digest whale fat), worms are able to absorb nutrients.

Stonefish (Synanceia verrucosa)

Stonefish
(Jacqueline Moen)
Perfectly camouflaged to look like a rock on the floor of a coral reef, the stonefish is the most venomous fish in the world. It has 13 spines along its back that release the venom, which can kill humans within just a few hours.

The Sloane’s viperfish (Chauliodus sloani)

Sloane's Viperfish
(Smithsonian Institution / National Museum of Natural History)
At less than a foot long, the Sloane’s viperfish may seem relatively harmless, but its teeth are a force to be reckoned with. The fang-like chompers are more than half the size of the viper’s head, allowing the fish to impale prey by swimming at the victim headfirst, mouth agape.

Giant isopods (Bathynomus giganteus)

Giant Isopod
(Courtesy of NOAA, Ocean Explorer)
Giant isopods look like they might eat you in your sleep if given the chance, and they just might—if they could only catch you. Giant isopods live in the deep sea, where they catch what prey they can, including slow-moving sea cucumbers, sponges, and nematodes, but mostly scavenge the dead carcasses of fish, squid and whales.

Frilled Shark (Chlamydoselachus anguineus)

Frilled Shark
(Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
When you hear the name “frilled shark,” lace and doilys come may come to mind. But this shark species gets its name for its frilly-looking gills, captured in this rare footage in 2007. With its 300 rows of needle-like teeth, the shark snags soft-bodied squid and fish in the deep. How it attacks prey is not known.