It is Halloween again, and time for us to dress up and terrify our neighbors! Let’s look at the winners of this year’s spookiest creatures of the deep blue sea!
Second place—Chondrocladia verticillata
What if SpongeBob developed a taste for fresh meat? The answer is Chondrocladia verticillata, a carnivorous sponge that lives on the bottom of the ocean, up to 3,000 meters deep. It preys on small crustaceans and other unfortunate animals, using calcified hook-like spicules to attach to and slowly digest its prey—a grisly fate! So the next time you watch SpongeBob, keep this in mind: Bikini Bottom might not be as friendly a neighborhood as you once imagined.
Chondrocladia verticillata, a carnivorous sponge of the deep sea. Photo from Hestetun et al., 2016.
First place—Terebellidae (spaghetti worms)
Imagine this scene: Long, pale tentacles reach out from a hole on the seafloor waving menacingly in the water, ready to drag you into an unseen creature’s deadly mouth.
This is not the description of a monster from some horror movie. This is a terebellid, or spaghetti worm, a combination of two of the most terrifying things we know: worms and tentacles. But don’t worry, spaghetti worms do not usually grow larger than 3–5 centimeters, they are not venomous, and they mostly eat small particles of floating organic matter. So, they cannot hurt you even if you encounter them while swimming…or can they? Muhahahaha.
Spaghetti worm from the Gulf of Mexico. Photo credit: Marvin Altamia.
Although these creatures send chills up our spines, human over-exploitation of the ocean is the real horror story. If we do not raise awareness about environmental protections and act quickly, our children may only be able to read about these fiends in horror fiction. That is why we at OGL are working to preserve as much information about these fascinating and frightening marine creatures before it is too late.
Want to support the documentation and preservation of spooky critters? Support OGL here!
Hestetun, Jon T., Pomponi, Shirley A., & Rapp, Hans Tore. (2016). FIGURE 5 in The cladorhizid fauna (Porifera, Poecilosclerida) of the Caribbean and adjacent waters. In Zootaxa (Vol. 4175, Number 6, pp. 521–538). Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.255263