Bizarre sea creatures that will give you nightmares

SINGAPORE – There is more than meets the eye in the animal kingdom, from butterflies that harbour cannibalistic tendencies to mind control parasites and toxic fanged fish.

Here The Straits Times shines the spotlight on the bizarre sea creatures.

Humpback Blackdevil

This deep-sea monster makes its home in depths of up to 1,500 metres in tropical and temperate waters worldwide.

To navigate the pitch dark and lure prey, the anglerfish sports a pole on its head with a glowing tip.

An ambush predator, it drifts through the water with its mouth gaping widely, ready to catch prey even larger than itself.

A fish or squid swimming by the blackdevil is quickly inhaled by the bulbous creature, and trapped behind its set of spindly, crowded teeth.

With small, beady eyes, it relies more on feeling the movement of other animals than on vision.

It is the female of this species that holds the power. While she averages 18cm in length and sports the pole, the dwarf male grows up to only 2.9 cm.

He does not really feed, but floats until he finds a female to mate with.

Yellowtail Fang Blenny


PHOTO: TEA YI-KAI

This slender finger-sized fish hides a toxic secret in its jaw.

The tiny reef fish has two fangs that deliver an opioid-like venom to intoxicate its victim.

When a predator engulfs a blenny, the fish sinks its fangs inside the enemy’s mouth, sending the predator’s blood pressure plunging.

The venom causes the predator to go limp – its mouth agape – and the blenny swims out of the trap unscathed.

The blenny is found in reefs and lagoons across the Indian and Pacific Ocean including the Red Sea in the Middle East.

The fanged fishes are so notorious that – through evolutionary strategies – other fishes such as juvenile snappers mimic the colour and pattern of the blennies to escape predation.

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Pinnate Batfish


PHOTO: TEA YI-KAI

At its juvenile stage, the batfish, with its black body and orange edging, is known to disguise itself as a poisonous flatworm with the same colours.

Through natural selection and evolution, the baby batfish learnt to adapt and mimic its flatworm twin – down to its undulating movements.

The batfish’s foes steer clear of what appears to be a deadly flatworm. However, mature batfish are more protected as they swim in schools.

When they get older, their colour changes to a silvery-brown.

The Pinnate batfish has been spotted off Little Sister’s Island.

Another batfish species that mimics dead leaves is more common in Singapore, and has been seen in Sentosa, Bedok, and Labrador Park.

This brown Orbiculate batfish drifts close to the water surface, alongside fallen leaves. The clever fish sneaks up on its prey, mainly invertebrates and small fish, which assume it is a harmless leaf.

The next time you gloss over floating leaves, look again. One of them might just be a fish.

One-finned Flashlight Fish


PHOTO: TEA YI-KAI

This flashy fish seen in the western and central Pacific Ocean has light emitting organs that sit below each eye.

Each glowing organ is also equipped with a flap of skin that allows the light to “blink” when the skin covers the organ.

By switching its lights on and off with the flap, the flashlight fish communicates with its counterparts, confuses predators, and attracts prey.

Since the jet black fish lives in caves, it appears as a pair of glowing orbs floating in deep water.

Small shrimp that are attracted to the blinking lights may swim closer, only to be devoured by the flashlight fish.

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Red-bellied Piranha


PHOTO: MANDAI WILDLIFE GROUP

Despite their bad reputation from pop culture, these fish do not go into a human killing frenzy, but their razor sharp teeth can tear at the flesh and tails of larger fish.

Red-bellied piranhas are known as the scavengers of the Amazon River in South America. They are opportunistic predators that will feed on weak or small animals they come across.

They are also known as the barking fish, as they tend to make warning calls and other noises when facing an opponent. If the opponent refuses to concede, the piranha will gnash its teeth and give chase.

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