Take a trip into the deep ocean

Richard Harrington By: Richard Harrington
Date posted: 4 November 2017

You may think the life you lead is high-pressure and full of weird characters, but we’ll take a look at the deeper parts of the Atlantic ocean to put this into perspective!

Head out west from the islands of the United Kingdom, and the continental shelf we sit on drops down to a deep Atlantic seafloor. It gets deepest near the Carribbean, in the Puerto Rico Trench, at around 8.6km down.

First of all, it’s dark down here, and pressure is several hundred times what we all experience at sea level. Many species live a long time, generally move slowly to conserve energy (dining opportunities can be few and far between) and take a long time to reach maturity and then breed.

The footage in the current BBC Blue Planet ii programme is stunning, but you can see some amazing live scenes during Okeanos Explorer expeditions, shared freely and run by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The photos on this page are taken from their Atlantic expeditions.

#1 Chimaera

ChimaeraCredit: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program

Also known as rabbit fish, as it seems to have a set of incisor teeth sticking out from its upper jaw, generations of this shark-relative have roamed the world’s oceans for over 400 million years. Some have a venomous spine in front of their dorsal fin. It is weird in appearance, but a relative known as Rhinochimaera (Harriotta spp) looks even stranger, with an enormous snout!

#2 Bathysaurus

BathysaurusCredit: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program

Why the long face? Well, this seabed dweller uses its long lower jaw to scoop up food from the sand. Living in the bare deep ocean plains, these sport both male and female organs, maximising the opportunity to breed as mates are few and far between.

#3 Greenland shark

Greenland sharkCredit: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program

An enormous, seemingly sluggish beast - but an efficient predator that can capture seals as well as scavenge on carcasses of dead whales and fish. It can live to an incredible age, at least 400 years and possibly many more!

#4 Corals

Bubblegum coralBubblegum coral, credit: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program

You might not expect to find corals in the gloom of the ocean depths, but there are lots of different kinds spread out across the Atlantic which form dense, colourful gardens. Lophelia pertusa is one which can be found close to the western coasts of Ireland and Scotland.

#5 Dumbo octopus

Dumbo octopusCredit: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program

Whoever saw octopi fly? Well, several kinds of octpus in the family use their ear-like fins to swim through the water. They seem to move just like the Disney character, and look just as adorable as they do.

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