This deep-sea gallery contains images that some might find disturbing. The creatures in it may look like visions stolen from nightmares of the demented, but to be sure, all exist on planet earth. Animals from the eerie to the ethereal in appearance live in a cool, dark world as alien to us as the surface of Venus. Yet it is filled with life, and finding out and cataloging “what’s down there” in the black depths of the Gulf of Mexico is one of the missions of the consortium known as Deep Pelagic Nekton Dynamics of the Gulf of Mexico (DEEPEND).
These (thankfully) generally small creatures were collected on cruises that are part of DEEPEND’s multi-year program to sample the water column of the Gulf, led by Dr. Tracey Sutton, Ph.D., of Nova Southeastern University in Dania Beach, Florida. He points out how little is still known about this part of the earth where the biodiversity is staggering. Here, Sutton and colleagues share a rare look at some of that deepwater life, with macro close-ups of creatures they’ve collected — often from water thousands of feet deep — and photographed by Danté Fenolio, Ph.D., with the San Antonio Zoo.