Dreaming of visiting penguins and seals in Antarctica? We at Brain Berries think that is a swell idea! But how about giving the sea pig or scale worm some love while you’re there? What are sea pigs and scale worms, you ask? Just a few of the odd sea creatures discovered not too long ago in the chilly waters of the Antarctic Ocean. Not much is known about a lot of the animals that live under there, but we will try our best to fill you in. When you visit Antarctica, here are 10 fascinating creatures you might just discover!
1. The Hoff Crab
The Hoff crab (Kiwa tyleri if you want to be boring) gets its name due to having a “hairy” chest that reminds everybody of David Hasselhoff’s own hairy chest. Jealous not to have a crab named after you? Then grow a hairy chest next time, okay? Anyway, this crab hangs out in water temperatures of 32 °F (0 °C), which gets a bit too cold for their tastes, so they huddle down near hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor so that they feel nice and toasty. Consequently, their chest hair is actually bacteria, which they love to scrap off and munch on. Yum?
2. Antarcturus sp.
The Antarcturus (sp?) holds the distinction of being the only creature on this list without a fun and exciting name. Little is known about these guys (fun fact: Wikipedia articles have been written about them in Dutch and Vietnamese, but not in English as of yet, so get to work one of you pedia-types!) For the record they are isopods that live deep in the ocean and fancy a delicious sponge or coral branch as part of their diet.
3. The Sandhopper
The sandhopper sounds like something out of Star Wars, but it’s not as impressive as it sounds. If disturbed, it hops away like a coward, basically. It is also interesting to note that this crustacean does double duty: sometimes it likes to hang out in the water, but is totally down with living on the land just like you and me. It’s related to the crab, lobster and shrimp. So if you see one, feel free to dunk it in hot butter, we guess.
4. The Scale Worm
There’s no getting around it, friends. The scale worm (Eulagisca gigantea if you’re nasty) is hideous looking, even with their Hollywood smiles. They live on the ocean floor and can grow up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) long and 4 inches (10 centimeters) wide. It’s got this retractable mouthpart that can be turned inside out and folded into its body. A neat trick, yeah? Okay, we’re going to slowly back away. RUN!!!
5. The Comb Jelly
The comb jelly (ctenophore) is a soft, transparent creature from our darkest nightmares. The thing looks like something out of Aliens, guys. On the other hand, these cousins of the jellyfish are kind of bright and shiny. And we all love to drool over bright and shiny things, right? When light strikes their paddles, they emit an array of different colors, giving them a really cool appearance. Just don’t pick one of them up and stick it in your mouth. One of our young interns learned this the hard way.
6. The Sea Pig
This one is our personal favorite. Also known as the sea cucumber (two zany nicknames!), it loves to feast on scum and decaying plant matter. Like a real pig, basically. But instead of tasting like delicious bacon, it tastes like decidedly undelicious poison. Sad news though: the sea pig lives in the deepest part of the Antarctic Ocean, so you are unlikely to encounter one.
7. Glass Sponges
Check this out: the glass sponge isn’t made out of glass and it is worthless as a cleaning tool for washing dishes. So what gives? Well, their skeletons are made of silica, which is one of the main components of glass. Satisfied with that answer? Glass sponges don’t have a particularly sophisticated palate; they will pretty much eat whatever the ocean sends their way. They’re also unfortunately dying at high rates due to global warming. So let’s do our part and heal the planet. Let’s do it for the glass sponges, guys.
8. Antarctic Feather Star
The Antarctic feather star (or Promachocrinus kerguelensis if you want to sound like a super smart scientist) live at the bottom of the Antarctic Ocean near the coast of Antarctica. They like cold water (duh) and they possess 20 feathery arms that allow them to swim with grace and poise. The true stars of the sea, we guess.
9. The Sea Spider
Do you enjoy the sea? Do you like spiders? Then you will absolutely love the sea spider! But you would eventually be devastated to learn that they aren’t actually spiders at all. They’re still pretty cool marine arthropods though. They can grow more than 14 inches (35 centimeters) long, by far the largest of their type. Scientists aren’t entirely sure why they get so big, so we’re just going to assume it is a glandular problem until proven otherwise.
10. The Springtail
Springtails sound like something you’d call an adorable furry critter that feeds on hugs and positivity, don’t you think? But they’re actually hexapods that are similar to insects in many ways. At less than 1 millimeter long, they are nonetheless the largest Antarctic animal that lives exclusively on land. In order to avoid freezing to death, they are able to slow down their metabolism levels in order to conserve energy as well as produce glycerol. But if conditions are super harsh, they will die anyway. Sad.