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GALLERY: Fisherman captures images of mystery monsters from the deep sea

Ridge-scaled grenadier photographed by Russian fisherman Roman Fedortsov from Murmansk, northwestern Russia. (@rfedortsov_official_account:Zenger).jpeg
Ridge-scaled grenadier photographed by Russian fisherman Roman Fedortsov from Murmansk, northwestern Russia. (@rfedortsov_official_account:Zenger)

WARNING: Some pictures included in this story might be considered too graphic or disturbing for some viewers.

MOSCOW (Zenger News) — Weird, alien-like creatures are featured in an incredible collection of images taken by a Russian trawler fisherman fascinated by the deep-sea denizens from the ocean’s “twilight zone.”

Roman Fedortsov from the city of Murmansk in northwestern Russia’s Arkhangelsk Oblast region was so amazed by some of the bizarre creatures he was fishing from the deep that he started photographing and making short videos. He sometimes fishes up to 3,300 feet below the surface (1,000 meters).

He said the bizarre creatures that he has found in the catch were so much stranger than anything he could possibly imagine.

The creatures that are adapted for survival in almost permanent darkness all year round are often compared to aliens by his online followers. They are pulled from the Barents Sea off northwestern Russia from the mesopelagic zone — or twilight zone — which extends from a depth of 660 feet (200 meters) to 3,300 feet (1,000 meters).

Fedortsov’s latest additions include chimaera, alien-headed fish, or another with what looks like bizarre tentacles protruding from its mouth. Chimaeras are also known as ghost sharks, with their last common ancestor living nearly a million years ago. The plate fish has an extremely flattened body and both of its eyes are on one side.

Another ancient-looking fish appears to have teeth worn down by overuse and constantly being replaced by fresh teeth coming from the back of its mouth.

The Russian fisherman has become an online celebrity, with many of his images going viral even though he admits that he often has little idea what most of them are, and which he shares out of curiosity. Fedortsov has been posting his deep-sea discoveries to Twitter and Instagram since 2016.

Despite the many comments that he gets, he said that he found all the fish fascinating and did not share the opinion that they were ugly monsters.

“In their own way, all of these creatures are beautiful,” he said.
He fishes mostly in the Barents Sea, off the northern coasts of Russia, which opens into the Arctic Ocean. But he also travels to other parts of the world, including the Atlantic Ocean, off Africa.

He said the huge array of different creatures he has found was confirmation that much of the ocean depths remain unexplored by man.

Some species in the images he shared have not been identified.

The setting of alien-like creatures in deep waters

Species living in sea depths have learned to adapt to a challenging environment without sunlight or warmth, causing various transformations in skin color, sight, size, and even lifespans.

Scientists say animals brought too rapidly from great depth to the surface generally die; in the case of some deep-sea fishes, their gas-filled swim bladder — adapted to resist high pressure — explodes.

“Some species, such as the deep-sea anglerfish and the viperfish, are also equipped with a long, thin modified dorsal fin on their heads tipped with a photophore lit with bioluminescence used to lure prey, say experts at marine conservation and education organization Marinebio.

Many deep-sea fishes are blind or have evolved super-powered vision. They are bioluminescent, with extremely large eyes adapted to the dark. Bioluminescent organisms are capable of producing light biologically.

Many species such as the anglerfish and dragonfish make use of bioluminescence to disguise their shadows becoming invisible and attracting prey. The katoptron fishes use their light organs to search and detect prey in the dark.

“Many mesopelagic and deeper pelagic species also save energy by having watery, gelatinous muscles and other tissues with low nutritive content,” according to Marinebio.

“For example, an epipelagic tuna’s muscle — found at the fish market — may be 20 percent protein while a deep pelagic blacksmelt or viperfish may have only five to eight percent protein. This means they cannot swim as well as a tuna, but they can achieve a larger body size with much fewer maintenance costs,” says the marine group.

“This is often used by animals everywhere for camouflage and protection from predators. In the deep sea, animals’ bodies are often transparent — such as many jellies and squids, blacks — such as blacksmelt fish, or even red — such as many shrimp and other squids.

The absence of red light at these depths keeps them concealed from both predators and prey. Some mesopelagic fish such as hatchetfish have silvery sides that reflect the faint sunlight, making them hard to see.

“Another possible adaptation that is not fully understood is called deep-sea gigantism. While the giant tubeworms of hydrothermal vents grow well due to abundant energy supplies, the other gigantic animals live in food-poor habitats,“ which remains a mystery to be discovered say Marinebio scientists.

Many deep-sea organisms, including gigantic but also many smaller ones, have been found to live for decades or even centuries.

Edited by Angie Ivan and Kristen Butler