The gates of hell have opened and they’re underwater. Russia, or rather the Soviet Union, is infamous for its tragic nuclear accident at Chernobyl, and you’d be forgiven for thinking these creatures fished from the depths were linked to it. But though they might look like radioactive mutants, they’re actually just fruits of the deep sea. Weird, freaky fruits.
The lucky man responsible for trawling up these terrors is Russian fisherman Roman Fedortsov. Sailing from a port in Murmansk, he seems to have a gift for dredging the frightening fishes out of their underworld boltholes. And now they’ve been unleashed on the internet.
The fisherman works on a trawler, a type of ship designed to dredge the seafloor of fish deep in the water column. The ship’s heavy nets are usually meant to catch shrimp, cod, halibut and other commercially sold fishes. But sometimes they can pull up a world of creatures that look completely alien.
Naturally, such animals might be a common sight to deep-sea fishers. However, to us landlubbers, they look like the love children of Cthulhu and Beelzebub’s less attractive sibling. It’s unsurprising, then, that when Fedortsov uploaded his “prize catches” to Twitter in early 2016, they gave the internet a reason to change its pants.
Despite their monstrous appearance, very few of these sea creatures are dangerous to humans. They are, though, quite mysterious, and even Fedortsov can’t identify some of them. The bizarre beasts have gotten Twitter abuzz with opinions, but their appearance may be deceptive once they’ve reached the surface.
Due to the water pressure of their deep-sea home, most of the fish can’t survive a trip to the surface. The change in pressure can distort their bodies and change their appearance dramatically from how they’d normally look. The famously ugly blobfish is a good example of this phenomenon.
These creatures have even adapted unusual colors for their dark habitat. Black is a common shade among abyssal predators, so their skin or eyes are usually jet in hue. Conversely, bright red is also prevalent, and the U.S. National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration offers an explanation.
“The black animals absorb all colors of light available and the red animals appear black as well,” it explained. “There is no red light to reflect and their bodies absorb all other available wavelengths of light. Thus red and black animals predominate.”
Some of the twilight dwellers that Fedortsov dredged up are familiar. Although they look a little different to how we might normally see them, we can still tell what they are. This irate member of the Batoidea family, which we know better as ray fish, is a prime example.
Others are unfamiliar, and for good reason. The frilled shark, a species so ancient and unchanged it’s considered a “living fossil,” lives so deep in the sea that it’s rarely observed. What we do know is that its 25 rows of over 300 razor-sharp needle teeth aren’t used for eating plants.
“Besides fish,” Fedortsov wrote on Twitter, “creatures like this one end up in the net, too. I hope it’s not poisonous.” This marine arthropod is, unsurprisingly, called a “sea spider.” Ridley Scott called, he wants his facehugger back.
Especially since fisherman Fedortsov still hasn’t returned his chestburster. Introducing the dragonfish, a deadly predator with dagger-like teeth that uses bioluminescence in a similar way to the infamous angler – to lure and eat unwitting prey.
Despite their inherent otherworldly nature, some of Fedortsov’s twilight-zone inhabitants can be eerily beautiful. Indeed, he seemed quite proud of this find. “Here is [a] whole, live caught star,” he wrote on Instagram. Isn’t that a Pokemon? You gotta catch ‘em all!
And then there are the, well, not so beautiful. Fedortsov’s accurate description of this sea urchin is a “spiny toothed hole,” which is still rather generous. Urchins eat algae accept when they’re starving; then they eat living prey with their calcified teeth. You sure wouldn’t like them when they’re hungry.
But just in case you were feeling better about going into the water again, Fedortsov’s pictures give you lots of reasons not to. This is clearly the internet’s legendary nope fish. It looks like it’s been created by nature to give you a reason to pee your pants in the sea.
The fisherman’s “catches of the day” have caused quite a commotion on Twitter, especially the ones he can’t identify himself. “We’re still arguing about this one,” Fedortsov wrote in November 2016. “What is it?” The jury’s still out, but some people think it’s another dragonfish genus called a “stoplight loosejaw.”
While most of Fedortsov’s finds are harmless, this refugee from the “kill it with fire” dimension is not. The long-nosed chimera fish has huge glowing eyes – but its most scary feature is its fin, which can inject a dose of poison into victims. Don’t worry, though; it’s only mildly poisonous.
One of fisherman Fedortsov’s catches looks like an alien weed ready to choke the planet. Didn’t we see something similar in War of the Worlds? The basket star is a deep-sea bloodless starfish that looks like it wants to throttle the life from your soul. Though it probably doesn’t, really.
With eyes like bloody eggs, we don’t want to find this one on our breakfast plates, thank you very much. We’ve lost our appetites. But it’s easy to see how the bizarre-looking grenadier fish gets its common name “rattail.” It feels as weird as it looks, too; Fedortsov says it has “skin like sandpaper.”
The twilight creatures fished up by Fedortsov provide fascinating glimpses into a world still very much alien to us. In the deep sea, where demonic worms look like they’ve eaten the last of the red broccoli, the unusual becomes the norm. Thanks, Fedortsov! But while it’s a great place to visit, we wouldn’t want to live there.