The ugliest sea creatures known to man

Have you ever wondered what hides beneath the ocean´s surface, in the deep, cold and most remote areas on earth? Here comes a list of the top 3 ugliest creatures found in the deep.

3. Goblin Shark (Mitsukurina owstoni)

This species of shark is a dweller of the deep, and basically a living fossil! It belongs to the branch Mitsukurinidae and is the only extant representative of this family, a lineage that is about 125 million (!) years old.

The shark has a distinct profile, with a long “eel like” body, an elongated flattened snout and the most frightning feature, its protrusive nail like teeth.  It is usually between 3 and 4 metres (m) long when mature, however it can grow considerably larger as it ages. The shark is found in all three major oceans, in depths from 100m and more.

Model of the Goblin shark at Natural History Museum Vienna
Goblin shark profile

2. Pelican Eel (Eurypharynx pelecanoides)

The Pelican Eel is a deep sea water fish, rarely seen by humans. This peculiar looking fish is just weird! A long thin body with a massive mouth which it uses for predation on pray that seem too big to handle.

The pelican eel’s most distinct trait is its large pelican-like mouth, which is much larger than its body. The mouth is loosely hinged, and can be opened wide enough to swallow a fish much larger than the eel itself.

The lower jaw resembles that of a pelican, which explains the name. The lower jaw is hinged at the base of the head, with no body mass behind it, making the head look disproportionately large. When it feeds on prey, water that is ingested is expelled via the gills.

Old descriptive drawing of the Pelican eel
X-ray of the long body and massive mouth of the pelican eel.

1. The Blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus)

This is a truly ugly creature! The Blobfish is a deep sea dweller and inhabits the deep waters off the coasts of mainland Australia and Tasmania, as well as the waters of New Zealand. They usually grow to about 30 centimetres (cm) in length.

They inhabit the depths between 600 and 1200 metres (m), where the pressure is 60 to 120 times as great as at sea level! Its body consists of a gelatinous mass slightly less dense than water. The low mass lets the fish float just above the sea floor without unnecessary use of energy.

They primarily feed on small crustaceans floating in front of them as they drift along. The Blobfish is often caught as bycatch by deep sea trawlers. As the trawlers gather the trawl, the pressure change is too great for the fish to handle and it “explodes” which gives it the distinctive ugly look.

Illustrations done by the artist Rachel Caauwe of the Blobfish in its natural habitat.
Blobfish after being caught by a trawler.


Sources: Duffy, C.A.J.; Ebert, D.A.; Stenberg, C. (2004). Mitsukurina owstoni. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature., Gulper Eel – Pelican Eel, Frightening Deep Sea Jaws | Animal Pictures and Facts., Blobfish voted ugliest animal in online mascot vote”. Ugly Animal Preservation Society