clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Say ‘Wish you were here’ with these postcards of hellish deep-sea creatures

The deep sea is a wild place

This week’s Planet Postcard features an Annelid. Image by the National Centers for Environmental Information.
This week’s Planet Postcard features an Annelid
Image by the National Centers for Environmental Information

The bottom of the ocean is teeming with weird animals — and this week, they’re being featured in a cute postcard created by the National Centers for Environmental Information. The postcard is part of new twice-monthly series of images taken from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s vast photo collection and paired with scientific descriptions.

This week, the postcard stars the photogenic, bottom-dwelling sea creatures that make up the broad category of benthic animals or benthos— like sponges, starfish, and scallops. They’re as diverse as the varied underwater habitats they live in. But most of these invertebrates are similar in that they survive by filtering through the muck that drifts to the ocean floor. They basically act like the ocean’s garbage disposal, churning up the sediment and cycling nutrients in the meantime.

Zoantharia (Bullagummizoanthus emilyacadiaarum
Photo by NOAA Ocean Exploration and Research

A few benthic animals live really, really deep underwater, like these lobsters that shack up next to hydrothermal vents nearly four miles beneath the surface. “That’s the equivalent of 13 Empire State Buildings stacked on top of each other,” NOAA writes.

Squat lobster (Munidopsis subsquamosa)
Photo by NOAA

To withstand the high pressures and cold temperatures of the deep ocean, many benthic animals puff themselves up with water and slow down their metabolisms. But humans are less well-adapted to the intense pressures. So to snap these photos, people working with NOAA sent down the Deep Discoverer remotely operated vehicle (ROV), which can dive up to four miles down.

New species discovered by the Deep Discoverer ROV during a 2015 dive. From top left: Seastar, red coral, white coral, and a squat lobster.
Images by NOAA Ocean Exploration and Research.

During these dives, the Deep Discoverer captured a couple brand new species on camera and took enough photos that scientists could create a Benthic Deepwater Animal Identification Guide. Now, we can look at these gorgeous photos and even send them as birthday cards to mom.

Annelid (worm)
Image by NOAA