I realised something while researching last week‘s post; the ocean is weird. In fact, we know very little about just how weird it really is. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), we have explored less than 5% of the ocean. (That’s a hell of a lot more than I mentioned in my giant squid post a few years ago – we’ve been busy apparently).
So I thought I’d list a few of my favourite weird ocean… things. Enjoy!
1. The Sunfish
The first cab off the rank is one of my favourites – the Giant Ocean Sunfish or Mola Mola. Climate models consistently show that oceans will probably end up crawling with jellyfish in the next century, so understanding things that eat jellyfish is really, really important.
Enter the Sunfish.
These guys are weird-looking fish. They’re also HUGE. Sunfish hold the record for being the world’s heaviest bony fish, weighing in at a whopping 2.2 tonnes. They can grow up to 3 metres from nose to tail. One of my favourite things about these guys though, is that they spend their days diving down to about 600 metres below the surface to find their food. Because this is so far away from sunlight, they get cold.
So they sunbathe.
That’s right – they swim up to the surface, turn themselves sideways and soak up the sun for a while before heading back down to the depths to hunt down jellyfish. They’re like ocean lizards.
2. Temperate Reefs
Last year, ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicle), on a mission to map the ocean south of Wilson’s Promontory in Victoria, Australia, discovered something completely unknown and entirely surprising. In the frigid waters of Bass Strait, they uncovered a massive temperate reef. It’s filled with giant fan corals, millions of fish and countless species thought to have been extinct ages ago. Park rangers estimated that this reef was possibly more diverse than the Great Barrier Reef!
Given we’ve explored less than 5 % of the ocean, it’s amazing to think there might be more hidden gems like this out there somewhere.
3. Barrel Sponges
Sponges are weird. Super weird. Each cell within a sponge has absolutely no specific purpose whatsoever. They kind of just jump in a do what needs to be done to survive. This means that if you chop a sponge in half, it’s completely fine. So much so that researchers have actually blended sponges to paste and they’ve re-formed.
Barrel sponges are even weirder. Not only are they huge for sponges (they can grow up to 2 metres high) but they’re old. Scientists have estimated some specimens have lived for over 2000 years.
Did I mention sponges were weird?
4. Underwater Crop Circles
For years, these sand formations off the coast of Japan completely baffled divers and scientists. What on earth was causing these perfect circles to appear on the ocean floor? It clearly wasn’t a freak ocean current.
It wasn’t aliens, it was pufferfish.
Turns out, male pufferfish spend ages making these elaborate circles in the sand to attract a mate. Cool huh?
5. The “Bloop”
This was a mystery that completely confounded NOAA researchers for years. The “Bloop”was first measured by the “Ocean Noise Network” in 1997. The sound didn’t match anything heard before and was written off as one of those things we’d probably never figure out.
That was until it was matched to sounds made by an icequake in the Scotia Sea in 2008. So less mysterious but still weird. You can listen to it here.
So there we go; the ocean is filled with weird and wonderful things. What do you think of the list? Did I forget your favourite? Let me know and I’ll see you in the comments section.