10 of the Oddest Marine Animals

Strange aquatic animals

Anna Norris.

Earth's waters are home to some of the strangest aquatic creatures, like the scale-less mandarinfish shown here that oozes a toxic mucus for protection. From funny-looking fish to creatures that simply behave in strange ways, there's usually a good reason for weird behavior in the animal world, and here are 10 examples. (Text: Anna Norris)

Longfin batfish

Anna Norris.

Next time you see a floating leaf in the Indo-Pacific, look again. Juvenile longfin batfish, which inhabit sea grass and floating sargassum weed beds, have been known to act like leaves floating in the water to mimic their surroundings.

Weedy sea dragon

Anna Norris.

Weedy sea dragons resemble the seaweed in which they live. As these tiny creatures drift along with the current, camouflage protects them from predators.

Vampire squid

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Vampyroteuthis infernalis ("vampire squid from hell") needs its large, bulging eyes as it dwells in the depths of the ocean. The vampire squid can turn itself inside out to use a Dracula-cape webbing as a shield. The creepy critter also changes colors and glows in the deep sea.

Electric eel

Anna Norris.

Rows of electroplates lining its body enable the electric eel to immobilize or kill its prey, but it also uses electric charge to defend itself, to communicate and to navigate. Electric eels can grow to be almost 8 feet long, and the longer the eel's body is, the more electric charge it can put out.

Manta ray

Photo: StudioSmart/Shutterstock

Manta rays frequently flip while they eat, and sometimes even jump straight out of the water. These flipping behaviors are thought to aid digestion, and jumping most likely acts as a mating display.

Lionfish

Anna Norris.

There's a reason the lionfish doesn't look friendly. The long, mane-like fins of the lionfish are venomous, and its sting is one of the worst of all fish.

Blobfish

Photo: NOAA [public domain]/Wikimedia Commons

The blobfish, possibly the strangest of the bunch, actually has advantages in its habitat. This odd fish has adapted to live in the deep sea, with a squishy exterior that floats more easily in the depths.

Frilled shark

Photo: © Citron / CC BY-SA 3.0/Wikimedia Commons

This rarely encountered shark, deemed a "living fossil," looks ancient and is often mistaken for an eel. Its strange body shape is thought to help it strike like a snake to catch prey, and its huge mouth along with thin, sharp teeth allow the shark to trap its food inside its mouth with ease.

Archerfish

Anna Norris.

While they may look like they are splashing around having fun, archerfish are actually skilled hunters. They form a tube with their tongue and shoot water through the surface to knock insects into the water.