We've all been mesmerized by colorful aquariums filled with unusual aquatic creatures. In honor of World Ocean Day, we've put together a virtual gallery of seven creatures worth a second look.
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An intimidating jellyfish, the man-of-war is actually four organisms working together as one—talk about bizarre. This jellyfish has terrifyingly long, venomous tentacles, which can extend 165 feet below the surface and paralyze or kill fish. Even dead man-of-war jellyfish can release a painful sting, so be careful of these powerful creatures.
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It looks like a lump of coral, or even a rock. But don’t judge this powerful stonefish by its looks: it has 13 spines that carry one of the most toxic fish venoms in the world and uses its almost undetectable camouflage to lure nearby fish into a seemingly safe environment before striking quickly.
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This enthralling creature has got some impressive abilities: it can change shape, color, and more to instantly blend in with the surroundings. Known as the “chameleon of the sea,” the cuttlefish can impersonate a chunk of coral or a patch of sand, for example. The U.S. military has even studied the animal’s powerful shape-shifting talents in the hope of refining its own camouflage techniques.
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Well known as large, lumbering creatures, manatees are aquatic relatives of the elephant, surprisingly enough. These gentle giants are herbivores that are often known to enjoy barrel rolls and body surfing. Due to increased boat traffic and loss of warm water, this endangered species is unfortunately dwindling in population.
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Leafy Sea Dragons
These camouflage masters live off the southeastern coast of Australia. The sea dragon looks a lot like the kelp found in nearby coastal waters—it drifts and tumbles in the current just like seaweed. Much like seahorses, the male sea dragons are responsible for childbearing. Unfortunately, divers often grab these creatures to keep them as pets, so the species is now on the protected animal list.
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With jagged, needlelike teeth, the Pacific viperfish looks like a creature out of Finding Nemo. The frightening creature sticks to depths up to 13,000 feet, luring prey with bioluminescent photophores on their bellies. In other words, the deep-sea species uses a natural light organ that hangs like an antenna to attract food, then uses its teeth to impale its victims.
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Shaped much like your garden-variety cucumber, these ocean dwellers live on or near the ocean floor. Their eating process would be bizarre to watch: they gather tiny particles like algae using tube feet that look like tentacles surrounding their mouths. The sea cucumber breaks down these particles into even smaller pieces, which then become food for bacteria and are recycled back into the ecosystem. They perform a useful role, similar to that of earthworms in land environments. A cousin to the starfish, these organisms can release sticky strings to trap their enemies as a form of defense.
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Described as a “big floating blob” by National Geographic, the ocean sunfish is certainly one of the less glamorous creatures in the marine world. Holding the record as the heaviest boned fish in the world, this creature weighs a whopping 2,200 pounds, on average. The mola, as the ocean sunfish is commonly called, consumes a peculiar diet almost solely consisting of large quantities of jellyfish.