Brinicles — The Ocean’s “Ice Fingers of Death”
Reaching down like frozen fingers from the water’s surface, where the so-called “brinicle” meets the sea bed, a web of ice forms that instantly freezes and kills everything it touches, including sea urchins and starfish.
The formation of brinicles, also known as ice stalactites, is dangerous to marine life. Sea ice is frozen fresh water because the salt in ocean water does not freeze with it. As the water freezes, high concentrations of salt are excluded. This brine – super saturated salt – gets pushed out of the ice through channels. Some of it gets pushed up and out, leaving a slightly salty layer on top of the sea ice, but much of it gets pushed down, back into the water.
As this extremely cold brine leaves the sea ice, it sinks in a descending plume and freezes the relatively fresh seawater it comes in contact with. This forms a fragile tube of ice around the descending plume into what is called a “brinicle” – an icicle of brine. These look like icicles hanging from the underside of the ice. If the brinicles keep growing and extending down to the ocean floor, they form a web of ice that freezes everything. Hence the nickname “ice fingers of death”. An amazing video which captures the formation of a brinicle was first filmed in 2011 for the BBC series Frozen Planet.
Rare Photographs of an Albino Humpback Whale
The Reddit community has collected a series of photographs of an albino humpback whale. Named “Migaloo”, which means “white fella” in the Aboriginal language, this whale can be seen along the Queensland coast in Australia. First seen in 1991, many people attempt to take videos and photos of this whale as he travels back and forth from Antarctica and Australia.
Flying fish (Exocoetidae) can be seen jumping out of warm ocean waters worldwide. Their streamlined torpedo shape helps them gather enough underwater speed to break the surface, and their large, wing-like pectoral fins get them airborne.
There are about 40 known species of flying fish. Beyond their useful pectoral fins, all have unevenly forked tails, with the lower lobe longer than the upper lobe. Many species have enlarged pelvic fins as well and are known as four-winged flying fish.
The process of taking flight, or gliding, begins by gaining great velocity underwater, about 37 miles (60 kilometers) per hour. Angling upward, the four-winged flying fish breaks the surface and begins to taxi by rapidly beating its tail while it is still beneath the surface. It then takes to the air, sometimes reaching heights over 4 feet (1.2 meters) and gliding long distances, up to 655 feet (200 meters). Once it nears the surface again, it can flap its tail and taxi without fully returning to the water. Capable of continuing its flight in such a manner, flying fish have been recorded stretching out their flights with consecutive glides spanning distances up to 1,312 feet (400 meters).
The Deadly Hidden Predator of the Sea
The bobbit worm (Eunice aphroditois) might not look dangerous, but this creature is one of the most deadly predators currently hiding in our oceans today. Don’t let the beautiful transluscent rainbow on his abdomen fool you, the only rights he wants are dead. It hunts in pretty much the most nightmarish way imaginable, digging itself into the sea floor, exposing a few inches of its body, which can grow to 10 feet long, and he sits and waits for his victim to swim by.
Using five antennae, the bobbit worm senses passing prey, snapping down on them with supremely muscled mouth parts, called a pharynx. It does this with such speed and strength that it can split a fish in two. And that, quite frankly, would be a merciful exit. If you survive initially, you get to find out what it’s like to be yanked into the worm’s burrow and into untold nightmares.
Bobbit worms can tuck themselves away among coral and decimate an aquarium, picking off fish one by one, which you can imagine is quite confusing for the owner, fish typically don’t just disappear. And they can even take the pros by surprise. When a public aquarium in England was having a problem with mysteriously maimed fish and even corals, they set out bait night after night, which disappeared, hooks and all. Staffers eventually had to dismantle the exhibit, finding a 4-foot bobbit worm named Barry.
Sea Angels and Sea Butterflies: The Horrible Truth…
Russian photographer Alexander Semenov captured these beautifully delicate sea creatures known as Sea Angels and Sea Butterflies. By capturing these little beauties on a black background, their transparent bodies seem to glow with a soft orange color.
Sea angels are a form of sea slug while sea butterflies are a form of sea snail. Sea butterflies have broader bodies and a shell, which some of them retain. But there is a hidden, shocking truth about these lovely luminescent creatures of the sea…and, oh, the horror!
The sea angels eat the sea butterflies.
The angels have terminal mouths common to mollusks, and tentacles to grasp their prey, sometimes with suckers similar to cephalopods. Their “wings” allow sea angels to swim much faster than the larger (usually fused) wings of sea butterflies. Nature can be cruel, but an angel has got to eat!
The Terrifying Mouths of the Sea
1) The Shark Goblin
Considered a living fossil, the rare goblin shark lives deep in the ocean. It’s the only living representative of the Mitsukurinidae family, a lineage that goes back about 125 million years. Adults grow to about 10 to 13 feet long and feature a long flattened snout and highly protrusile jaws. Its long snout is covered with a specialized organ that enable it to sense minute electric fields produced by nearby prey, which it then snatches up by rapidly extending and snapping its horrendous-looking jaws.
2) Hag Fish
In response to physical attack, the hagfish secretes a microfibrous slime. When this goo is combined with water it expands into a cohesive, gelatinous muck (picture 4). A few drops of this stuff is sufficient to bind water dozens of times its own volume and, unlike a simple slime, the proteins it contains unravel to give it some tensile strength and durability. Why the horrifying teeth?
3) The Leatherback Sea Turtle
Those hundreds of jagged stalactites that line the turtle’s mouth and esophagus all the way down to its horrible, horrible gut are called papillae, and they exist because the leatherback turtle’s diet consists entirely of jellyfish and other soft-bodied, slimy invertebrates.
4) The Vampire Fish
Local to the Amazon, the vampire fish is packing a mouth full of knives designed to shank other fish. The teeth are so long - up to 6 inches - that it has to sheathe them in a holster built into the front of its face. They are closely related to piranhas, and piranhas also constitute most of their diet.
5) The Cookie Cutter Shark
Appearing only in deep water under cover of night, the cookie cutter shark is only 2 feet long, but it has the largest teeth relative to its size of any shark. As small as it is, the cookie cutter prefers to inflict hit-and-run attacks. As its name suggests, its signature move is to use the razor-sharp cookie cutter built into its face to quickly rip a circular chunk out of its prey.