Videos of rare deep-sea marine life near California

Is there anything dreamier than a giant puffy ghost jelly in the middle of a “blizzard” on the high seas? Depends on your personal preferences. Perhaps you would be more inspired by a whalefish shimmering in calm waters like an infrared sensor. Or a barrel fish snaking through the inky depths.

These are among dozens of rare scenes captured by Doc Ricketts, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) robotic rover. For the past few months, the 12-foot-long, 10,000-pound submersible has been exploring the underwater canyons off central California, a gateway to the Pacific Ocean’s abyssal plain and the many sights who thrive there.

[Related: A photo gallery of sea creature tracks]

Using the rover’s powerful HD cameras and LED lights, MBARI researchers can detect and record wild animals that have almost never been seen by the human eye. Take the giant ghost jelly, for example. First described in 1910 and identified in the 1960s, the species has been documented in six of the world’s oceans. Yet, it has only been seen a hundred times, nine of which by MBARI. The vast majority of the jelly’s body (which can stretch up to 33 feet, or about the length of two stacked giraffes) is made up of four “mouth arms” which it uses to grapple its prey and tread water. It has no tentacles and does not appear to sting.

Whalefish was another chance discovery made by Doc Ricketts this summer. MBARI researchers identified it as a member of the family Cetomimidae, a group of deep-sea vertebrates lacking scales and prominent fins. The creatures are not related to whale sharks, but are named after the way they hold their mouths open to feed. And while they may look brilliant in the light, their shocking coloring helps them slip through the darkness of the Midnight Zone. Marine biologists are still piecing together the anatomical details of the whale, but from what they know so far, it enjoys a truly unconventional sex life.

Of course, no ocean-bottom adventure would be complete without an animal that looks like it’s made of cellophane. Just this week, MBARI researchers shared a clip of a barrel-eye fish found over 2,000 feet in Monterey Bay. Unlike the whalefish, this animal has a working set of peepers that roll around in its head, allowing it to search for threats above. The green lenses might also help him spot bioluminescence, even when sunlight invades his surroundings. The transparent helmet, on the other hand, is filled with fluid, which protects his organs and gives them some leeway.

Doc Ricketts is one of two robotic rovers MBARI owns and operates. The Ocean Research Center also uses a benthic rover, mini rover and several other autonomous vehicles to explore Monterey Bay. Check out his YouTube channel for more videos of his deep sea expeditions.

Correction (December 13, 2021): The length of the Doc Ricketts robotic rover was incorrectly labeled as a foot. It is 12 feet long.

Comments are closed.