1. Mantis shrimp
Step away from the mantis shrimp; these utterly gorgeous crustaceans are nothing short of vicious vixens. They possess powerful claws that they employ in spearing, stunning and dismemberment. And if you think one might be safe in an aquarium, think again. Some larger species of mantis shrimp are known to have broken through aquarium glass with a single strike of the lethal claw.
2. Hammerhead sharks
Hammerheads use their unusual noggins to sniff and scope out prey, which makes them seem pretty sophisticated. But they also use their strange-shaped heads to pin stingrays against the wall and jam their dinner down to the seafloor.
3. Leafy Sea dragon
As if seahorses weren’t weird enough, another member of the family, the spectacular “leafy seadragon” or Glauert’s seadragon (Phycodurus eques), takes the family funny gene a step further with its extravagant array of seaweed camouflage.
4. Lumpsuckers (*snicker*)
Hi, cuties! Looking like some kind of pocket aliens with attachment issues, the lumpfish’s modified pelvic fins have evolved into sticky disks which they use to hang on to things. And just to add to the really-odd-but-charming factor, many species have bony, wart-like tubercles protruding from the head and body.
5. Dumbo octopus
For every cute or beautiful creature, there are many that look like this, Grimpoteuthis, also known as the Dumbo octopus. This creepy creature lives at depths reaching 23,000 feet below sea level, deeper than any other known octopus. It can make the transparent layer of its skin blush at will and has been measured up to six feet in length.
6. Longhorn cowfish
Ok, quick, back to cute. The longhorn cowfish, Lactoria cornuta, is a type of boxfish that can grow up to 20 inches long. Known for their perky horns … but what about those whistling kissy lips? As it turns out, they put their mouths to good use by blowing jets of water into the sandy substrate to root out food.
7. Ornate ghost pipefish
Ooooh, spooky! The ornate ghost pipefish (Solenostomus paradoxus) is both ornate and a bit of an apparition, just as the name implies. It’s one of the hardest fish to find in the ocean, the Where’s Waldo of the reefs, due to its petite size (12 centimeters long) and an appearance indistinguishable from the coral habitat in which it lives.
8. Striated frogfish
Who mixed up the fish with the fright wig? These hairy guys are weird to look at and have an even weirder method of procuring dinner. When their prey approach, they wiggle their “lure” appendage to mimic a worm, when the prey comes in to snap the worm, the frogfish rapidly opens its mouth up to 12 times its size, and the inward rush of water and prey are consumed in the blink of an eye. Imagine this fish with its mouth opened 12 times as large. Gulp!
While it’s true that this frogfish, from the same family as the hairy-wormy dude above, doesn’t have the same wild texture, it’s no less bizarre. While evolving some mind-boggling camouflage effects, it’s also earned the prize for “fish most resembling an Easter Island statue.”
Bright, colorful, and kissy cute, the mandarinfish is not as innocent as it might look! It doesn’t have scales to protect it; instead, it secretes a toxic mucus.
11. Longfin batfish
Next time you see a floating leaf in the Indo-Pacific, look again. Juvenile longfin batfish, which inhabit sea grass and floating sargassum weed beds, have been known to act like leaves floating in the water to mimic their surroundings.
12. Weedy sea dragon
Like their leafy cousins, weedy sea dragons evolved to mimic their surroundings. These guys live in seaweed.
13. Vampire squid
This “vampire squid from hell” doesn’t want to suck your blood, but it does have a super cool Dracula cape webbing that it uses as a shield. And it loves the dark, changing colors and glowing in the deep sea.
14. Electric eel
Rows of bright electric plates shock the electric eel’s prey and fend off predators. It also uses its electricity to communicate and navigate dark waters. And the longer the eel, the more electricity.
15. Manta ray
This oddly-shaped ray flips while it’s eating. The behavior is thought to aid in digestion, but we think he’s just really just as excited about sushi as we are.
There’s a reason the lionfish doesn’t look friendly. The long, mane-like fins of the lionfish are venomous, and its sting is one of the worst of all fish.
The aptly-named blobfish, possibly the strangest of the bunch, actually has advantages in its habitat. This odd fish has adapted to live in the deep sea, with a squishy exterior that floats more easily in the depths.
18. Frilled shark
This rarely encountered shark, deemed a “living fossil,” looks ancient and is often mistaken for an eel. Its strange body shape is thought to help it strike like a snake to catch prey, and its huge mouth along with thin, sharp teeth allow the shark to trap its food inside its mouth with ease. They also like to hide under your bed at night.
While they may look like they are splashing around having fun, archerfish are actually skilled hunters. They form a tube with their tongue and shoot water through the surface to knock insects into the water.
These unappetizing, freaky-looking fish are a commonly eaten delicacy.
Monkfish are so grotesque that they have been confused with the legendary sea monster called a sea monk.
The red-lipped batfish gives the impression that it tried to compensate for an unusual body by caking on the lipstick.
Interestingly, they are better suited for ‘walking’ along the ocean floor than swimming. When they reach adulthood, they use their dorsal fin as a fishing lure to attract prey instead of for swimming.