Residents of the Deep

Animals

Learn more about the marine life highlighted throughout the Aquarium of the Pacific.

These animals are featured in connection with the Aquarium’s Ocean Exploration exhibits and programs. Please note that not all of the animals below are on exhibit at the Aquarium. Some are represented in signage, models, or other displays.

Ocean Exploration Animals

“Bumpy” Jelly

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Cniderians | Sea jellies

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This sea jelly species that does not have an official common name, was discovered in 1990 by scientists exploring the deep ocean in Monterey Bay, California. Subsequently, photographs taken by a video camera on a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and jellies collected by the ROV’s arm that were studied in a laboratory setting confirmed that this was a new jelly genus and species. In 2003/2004.It was named Stellamedusa ventana by the scientists who first discovered it.

Stella’ refers both to the jelly’s translucent blue-white color and its trailing arms, which, to the scientists, looked like a shooting star. “Medusa” is another word used for a jelly’s bell, uniquely shaped in the case of Stellamedusa ventana. The species name comes from the name of the ROV, Ventana.

The jelly’s unofficial or nickname common name, “bumpy” jelly, refers to the wart-like bumps or projections that cover the oral arms and skin (exumbrella) of the jelly’s bell.

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Bubblegum Coral

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Cniderians | Corals

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Living at depths of 200-1300 m (650-4200 ft), this sea fan can grow to a height of 6 meters (20 feet).

Paragorgia arborea is a cold-water branching gorgonian fan. The common name for this soft coral, bubblegum coral, comes from the bundles of polyps at the end of the branches that resemble a wad of bubble gum. Unlike most other corals that attach to rocks or similar structures, these corals attach to the sea floor, growing upward and branching outward like a tree. They form one of the largest branching gorgonian coral colonies.

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Chambered Nautilus

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Cephalopods | Invertebrates

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In most geographic areas, the chambered nautilus migrates vertically at sundown from depths of 610 meters (2000 feet) to 91 meters (300 feet) to seek prey, returning to the deep ocean at sunrise.

The chambered nautilus, a cephalopod, is a relative of the ancient ammonoids and a modern relative of squid, octopus, and cuttlefish. Unlike its relatives, the nautilus has an external shell. It inhabits ocean waters close to the sea floor during the day, migrating to shallower water at night in search of prey.

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Dumbo Octopus

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Cephalopods | Mollusks

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Grimpoteuthis spp, are known as the deepest living of all octopus species. They live on the seafloor or hover just slightly above it at depths of depths of 3000 to 4000 m (9800 to 13000 ft),

The similarity of the ear-like fins protruding from the top of the mantle of the Dumbo octopus to the ears of the Disney character, Dumbo, the Flying elephant, led to the common name, dumbo. There are about 17 species of Dumbo octopus that belong to a group called “umbrella octopus,” because they are able to float with an umbrella-like look to their mantle. While these species can “flush” color as do more shallow species, their mouth structure is different. It has a degenerated radula-type opening that allows it to swallow prey whole instead of having to tear and grind it. This feeding characteristic unique to the genus Grimpoteuthis.

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Fragile Pink Urchin

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Echinoderms

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The live fragile pink urchins in our whale fall exhibit are in the second wave of animals to arrive at whale falls in California waters where they come to feed on detritus left over by the mobile first scavengers, hagfish, sleeper sharks, and spotted ratfish.

Fragile pink urchins, considered by many to be the most beautiful sea urchin because of their color, belong to a group of invertebrates called echinoderms, that is, spiny-skinned animals. They are related to sea stars, sand dollars, and sea cucumbers. Like their relatives, they are bottom dwellers and do not have a brain or a heart.

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Giant Flashlight Fish

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Bony Fishes

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On moonless nights, the giant flashlight fish does a vertical migration to shallower waters to find prey, returning to the safety of deeper waters at sunrise.

Another common name for the giant flashlight fish is splitfin flashlight fish. These fish use their blinking lights to communicate with other giant flashlightfish, assist in schooling, and mating, and to attract prey.,

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Giant Isopod

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Invertebrates

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The gigantism of the giant isopod may be an adaptation to the extreme pressure of the deep ocean they inhabit.

Giant isopods are one of the largest crustaceans and the largest known member of the isopod family, a group of crustaceans that are closely related to shrimp and crabs. The giant isopod is also related to terrestrial crustaceans, such as Armadillidium vulgare, commonly known as the pillbug or roly-poly. The enormous size of giant isopods is a result of a phenomenon known as deep sea gigantism or abyssal gigantism, the tendency of deep sea animals to grow to a much larger size than similar species in shallower waters.

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Johnsons Sea Cucumber

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Invertebrates

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Johnsons’ sea cucumber is not among the deep sea cucumbers that are able to swim to find prey. This species relies on particles of food falling from the surface as marine snow and prey it can find in the seafloor sediment. “Swimming” is limited to flexing its muscular body, inching along the seafloor on its tube feet.

This sea cucumber is an echinoderm. It is related to sea stars, sea urchins, and sand dollars. Little is known about the life cycle. However, scientists are beginning to learn more as they explore the depths of the ocean and have begun to learn more as a result of manned submersibles and ROVs.

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Pacific Hagfish

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Cartilaginous Fishes

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Pacific hagfish are among the very first arrivals at a whale fall in deep waters off the California coast. Called mobile scavengers, they feast on the soft tissue of the whale carcass/.

Pacific hagfish, also known as the California hagfish and slimy eels, are eel-like primitive fish little changed in the past 330 million years of fossil records. They do not have jaws, a stomach or jaws. Their eyes are rudimentary and their vision is poor but they do have good senses of smell and touch. These bottom dwelling fish prey on polychaete worms and small, small invertebrates and are scavengers of dead or dying animals. They are mobile scavengers at whale falls among the very earliest arrivals at a new fall. Hagfish are known for their ability to produce copious amounts of slime when disturbed, hence the common name, slime eels.

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Pelagic Siphonophore

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Cniderians

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Marrus orthocanna is one of several deep sea siphonophores that have the same common name, pelagic siphonophore. Deep sea ocean explorers in manned submersibles have viewed this species at depths as deep as 2000 meters (6600 feet).

Like other siphonophores M. orthocanna is a colony of specialized individuals known as zooids that have different functions such as locomotion, capturing prey, waste removal, and reproduction. No matter what the function, all the zooids attached to the stem of a siphonophore are descended from one fertilized egg so all are genetically identical.

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Pygmy Sperm Whale

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Mammals | Marine

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When a whale dies and the carcass sinks to the deep ocean floor, it becomes a “whale fall”, a temporary ecosystem for a diverse community of marine life as is shown in our exhibit featuring a model of a pygmy sperm whale carcass.

This toothled whale is one of three members of the superfamily Physeteridae—sperm whales, pygmy sperm whales, and dwarf sperm whale. It was not until 2005 that genetic testing demonstrated that pygmy and dwarf sperm whales were two, not one species as previously thought and that they belonged in a separate family from the “giant” sperm whale, the family Kogiidae. Like sperm whales, their mouth is on the underside of their body, but unlike sperm whales they have very few and very small teeth that are sharply pointed and curved. Like sperm whales, they are suction feeders with a preference for squid.

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Spot Prawn

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Invertebrates

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While the spot prawn Pandalus platyceros, inhabits ocean depths as deep as 485 meters (1,600 ft), its relative, the deep sea prawn, Acanthephyra pelagica, inhabits deep dark ocean waters at depths of 700 to 1800 m (2310 to 5940 ft).

Panda us platyceros, is the largest species of shrimp found in ocean waters off the west coast of the United States. All these prawn are males during the first few years of life and all change to females. They do a nightly vertical migration to shallower waters at night to find prey, returning to deeper water at sunrise to hide from predators. They also migrate seasonally to breed.

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Spotted Ratfish

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Spotted ratfish are among the first arrivals at a new whale fall in deep waters off the California coast along with hagfish and sleeper sharks.They feasting on the soft tissue of the whale carcass. A whale fall occurs when the carcass of a dead whale sinks to the depths of the ocean where it becomes a temporary ecosystem for a diverse community of marine wildlife.

The spotted part of the spotted ratfish’s common name comes from the white spots that cover its body. The ratfish part refers it its pointed rat-like tail. These fish are chimeras. They have characteristics of sharks from which they descended millions of years ago, and bony fishes.

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Squat Lobster

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Arthropods

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Cervimunida princeps,, the squat lobsters in the Aquarium’s in the Aquarium’s Hydrothermal Vent Exhibit, are shallow water relatives of the squat lobster species that have adapted to the harsh environment of deep sea hydrothermal vents.,

Also called Galatheid crabs, squat lobsters are not lobsters; they are crabs and are most closely related to porcelain and hermit crabs. Widely distributed worldwide, there are 60 genera and over 900 species. Scientists estimate that as many as 120 species may not yet have been discovered. Two species are found in California waters. Munida quadraspina is found in Pacific Ocean waters from Sitka, Alaska to the Coronado’s in Baja California. Munida hispida ranges from Monterey Bay, California south to the Galapagos Islands.

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Tripod Fish

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Bony Fishes

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From the cold, dark depths of the ocean comes a peculiar yet interesting looking fish called the tripod fish. Known as a “stilt walker,” this unusual fish perches over the substrate in the deep ocean floor most of its life hunting for food. Using three elongated projections from its modified fins, it stands over the seafloor like a tripod, giving it its common name, tripod fish.

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Vampire Squid

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Cephalopods

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The vampire squid does not ink.The tips of of its tentacles emit a cloud of bioluminescent sticky mucus that glows for up to 10 minutes, plenty of time for the squid to escape a predator.

Vampire squid are cephalopods that are about the shape, size, and color of a football. The name “vampire” was given to these little squid because of the dark blood-red coloration, eye color (sometimes blue in different lighting), and what looked like spines on the tentacles. These gave rise to the false idea that it sucked blood out of its victims. In fact, these squid float peacefully in their deep, dark, oxygen-deprived habitat, waiting for food to come to it— a different behavior than that of other squid and octopus species.

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