Before you get in the water this summer, remember there’s a lot going on under the sea we don’t yet know about.
1. “Immortal” jellyfish
Could this tiny jelly hold the secret to curing ᴄ.ᴀ.ɴ.ᴄ.ᴇʀ? Smaller than a pinky nail, this sea creature has the Benjamin Button-like ability to revert back to a polyp stage when ᴛʜʀᴇᴀᴛened with sᴛᴀʀᴠation or ɪɴᴊᴜʀy, earning it the nickname “immortal jellyfish” for how it outsmarts ᴅ.ᴇ.ᴀᴛ.ʜ. Although the species had been known about for a hundred years, it wasn’t until the 1990s that this incredible phenomenon was discovered. Scientists still are unsure exactly how its cells are able to regress and regrow, but the immortal jellyfish could hold promise for fighting ᴅɪsᴇᴀsᴇs like ᴄ.ᴀ.ɴ.ᴄ.ᴇʀ in humans.
2. Blue whales
These mysterious giants of the sea are the largest animal to live on Earth—ever. But partially due to the whaling trade ʜᴜɴᴛing them nearly to ᴇxᴛɪɴᴄᴛion, plus their slow reproduction, there just aren’t many of them out there to study. As a result little is known about these elusive creatures, including how long they live, when they reach s. ᴇ.xual ᴍ.ᴀ.ᴛurity, or the specifics of their reproduction. The animals’ shyness also makes them hard to observe. In 2017, a video of never-before-seen blue whale behavior off Sri Lanka caused controversy among experts as to whether or not the rolling and racing caught on camera was a ᴍ.ᴀ.ᴛing ritual. The researchers plan to return to see if they can learn more.
3. Giant oarfish
Could these be the sea monsters of yore? This snake-like creature is the longest bony fish on Earth, and can grow up to 56 feet and weigh 600 pounds. But because they live at depths around 3,300 feet, not much is known about the rarely-seen-alive creature. Two ᴅ ᴇ.ᴀ.ᴅ oarfish were found on California shores in 2013, prompting scientists to wonder if ᴏᴍɪɴᴏᴜs forces were at work to beach the normally deep-sea animals, as they have been rumored to wash up before ᴇᴀʀᴛʜǫᴜᴀᴋᴇs. But instead the incident turned out to be a boon for scientists to be able to study the specimens—since they don’t even know how many species of the fish exist, DNA samples could help researchers figure that out.
4. Purple orb
In 2016, researchers from Ocean Exploration Trust (founded by oceanographer and Titanic discoverer Robert Ballard) aboard the Exploration Vessel Nautilus found a strange purple blob on the ocean floor off California. Stumped as to what it could be, the scientists joked about it being a spider egg sac or a “tiny momma octopus,” and nicknamed it Blobus purpilis before ʙᴀᴛᴛʟing with a crab to retrieve the specimen. It looks kind of like a strange and mesmerizing jellyfish. Research is ongoing as to what the orb is, but it’s hypothesized to be a new species of velutinids, a type of snails.
5. The Abyss’s New Species
We’re not talking about James Cameron’s 1989 movie about researchers who find a deep-sea civilization—but scientists are traveling to the real-life abyss, the area between 13,000 and 20,000 feet under the surface, to discover new marine life. A recent expedition near Australia located hundreds of new species, as well as little-known creatures like the “faceless fish” that hasn’t been seen here since 1873. Other rare specimens the scientists collected include the spiny king crab, the monkey brittle star, the smooth-head Blobfish (yes, that’s its real name), and the deep-sea lizard fish. Who knows what else is down there? We sure don’t—and we don’t know the explanations for these unsolved mysteries about planet Earth, either.