Australian scientists announced on July 15, 2010 that they had discovered dozens of bizarre, ancient species while scouring the depths of the Great Barrier Reef. This ruby red beauty is the deep-sea jellyfish, Atolla, which can produce brilliant bioluminescence to ward off predators.
The team was on a mission to monitor ocean warming threats to marine life when they came upon these mysterious creatures hundreds of feet below the surface. Shown here is a Peraphilla, another deep-sea jellyfish.
As remote-controlled cameras explored Osprey Reef, located off the far north coast of Queensland, they captured ancient sharks, giant fish and swarms of crustaceans. This incredibly creepy monster is an anglerfish, earning its name from the way it catches its prey by dangling a small growth off of its forehead.
The cameras used to capture these amazing images are "special low-light sensitive cameras which were custom designed to trawl the ocean floor, 1,400 meters (4,593 feet) below sea level," AFP reported. Another anglerfish, shown here, expresses its ability to produce bioluminescence. The eerie glowing lights are generated by bacteria living on the fish.
Lead researcher Justin Marshall from the University of Queensland told AFP, "Some of the creatures that we've seen we were sort of expecting, some of them we weren't expecting, and some of them we haven't identified yet." This glowing orb is the lobster-like, deep-sea amphipod Phronima, which produces a barrel-shaped, gelatinous home around itself.
Marshall's team said they stuck a tuna fish head on the end of a stick to attract the strange creatures towards the cameras. This colorful blob is the copepod crustacean, Sapphirina. Most copepods are planktonic and can be found in both fresh water and salty sea water.
Marshall said his team's research became more urgent after an oil spill in the Great Barrier Reef this year, as well as rising global ocean temperatures. This spider-like isopod appears to dance for the camera on its long, spiny legs.
Deap sea viperfish "One of the things that we're trying to do by looking at the life in the deep sea is discover what's there in the first place, before we wipe it out," Marshall told AFP. This scary sea beast is not one to mess with. One of the fiercest predators of the deep, the viperfish makes the anglerfish look tame. They can grow up to a foot and have been known to prey on sharks.
Aside from pollution and runoff, the reef has been severely damaged just in the past few months. In April, a Chinese coal ship ran aground and gouged a a huge scar in the reef, and in March, hundreds of containers full of fertilizer tumbled off a Hong Kong ship and onto the reef during a storm. What look like shiny balloons sitting in a row are bioluminescent organs from a hatchetfish.
The next step for Marshall's team is to take their cameras to the Gulf of Mexico in hopes of discovering how life is fairing there after the oil spill. While it may look like a futuristic space alien staring back at you, this photo shows a close-up view of the eyes of a deep-sea amphipod crustacean.
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