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10 Ocean Facts That Are Stranger Than Fiction

The ocean isn't fooling around

Vlad Tchompalov
© Vlad Tchompalov

It’s April Fools Day and while everyone is unleashing their carefully planned pranks, we thought we should remind you that Mother Nature is the greatest prankster of them all. The ocean is full of creatures that seem too weird to be true. While this all might seem like a bit of fiction, I assure you that the ocean is no joke.

1. Sea Slugs Decapitate Themselves

Sea slug - Elysia marginata
© Rickard Zerpe/Wikimedia Commons

These little marine Marie Antionettes were guillotining themselves so that they could regrow their bodies—becoming even more powerful queens of the ocean. Yeah, you’re going to want to read the full story here.

 2. A Narwhal Tusk is Just One Big Tooth

narwhal-duel_2015_03_10
© Paul Nicklen/NGS Image Collection

All a narwhal wants for Christmas is their two front teeth, because two teeth is all they have. You know that big horn that makes narwhals the magical unicorns of the sea that they are? Well, that’s a super large, super-sensitive tooth that can help stun their prey. That’s right—a narwhal’s horn is literally STUNNING! Uncover the mysteries of the narwhal here.

3. Sharks Can Walk

walking-shark
© University of Queensland

Let me tell you about this next incredible fact in the form of a parody to Stayin’ Alive. Cue the disco beat!

You can tell by the way they use their walk … They’re a walking shark, eating prey under rocks

Life is good but the coral reefs are warm … So they keep evolving where they were born

They’ve got strong pelvic fins, it’s okay … Their pectoral fins help them strut away

We can try to understand … These walking sharks who can pop on land 

Nine million years the sharks evolved so they could … Walk and survive, walk and survive

There’s nine species of epaulette sharks that can … Walk and survive, walk and survive

Ah, ha, ha, ha, walk and survive, walk and survive … Ah, ha, ha, ha, walk and survive

Now it’s time for a dance break and to find out more about these amazing sharks here.

4. There’s a Crab with Fur Lined Claws

A deep sea, yellow crab with
This "Yeti crab," Kiwa hirsuta, was collected during the March 2005 Easter Microplate expedition at a hydrothermal vent about 2200 meters below the sea surface, near Easter Island. © Ifremer/A. Fifis

Some crabs want to be SHINY, but the Yeti Crab prefers to be cute and fluffy. You can find these furry friends near thermal vents in some of the coldest parts of the ocean. There, they live in a precarious position: move too close to the vents and they will instantly fry; move too far and they can die of hypothermia. Their “fur” is actually blonde setae, bristles that enable them to harvest their main source of food: bacteria. They dance around, waving their claws through the water to get a constant flow of oxygen and grow the bacteria they subsist on. Read more about these chic crustaceans.

5. Octopus Occasionally Punch Fish for No Reason

Extra! Extra! Read all about it. We’ve got eight-legged fisticuffs on the ocean floor. Researchers have found that octopuses occasionally punch the fish that join them in underwater hunting parties. Sometimes the octopus wanted the fish to get away from its prey or needed to redirect the fish. Other times … well, no one knows why the octopus did except the grumpy cephalopod himself, and he’s keeping his secrets. Delve into the minds of these sourpusses here.

6.  Pistol Shrimp Can Pop Bubbles That Sound Louder Than a Gunshot

15813868816_0d19e97f7c_k
© Christian Gloor

Imagine you’re in an underwater saloon. A jellyfish is playing a lovely tune on the piano. You’re sharing some fine saltwater after a long day of wrangling wrasses. The saloon doors burst open and everyone stops as they gaze upon the greatest gunslinger of the western waters: the Pistol Shrimp. This shrimp can use its claw to create bubbles that can fly out at 60 miles per hour, fast enough to kill or stun their prey. When these bubbles pop they can reach 210 decibels. An actual gunshot is only around 140-175 decibels. The pistol shrimp is a foe (or friend) to be reckoned with. Find out more about these sassy snapping shrimp.

7. Phronima Live In the Corpse of Their Prey

A small, white insect-like crustacean against a black background.
© Eric A. Lazo-Wasem

Phronima are the worst kind of house guest. They barrel in, never leave, raise their children inside of you and ride your corpse on the ocean waves. Yeah, I know—they’re the worst and they probably would also destroy your favorite throw pillow during their visit. Their gross habits haunt my dreams and also happened to inspire the Facehuggers in Alien. Learn what other fictional aliens were inspired by real-life ocean dwellers.

8. Thar Be Dragons in the Ocean

Sylke Rohrlach
© Sylke Rohrlach

Sea dragons, that is! They might not want to fight knights or fall in love with donkeys but they are majestic in their own way. Their leafy appendages help them camouflage into the lush forests they call home. But don’t trust that delicate exterior—these dragons come with their own coat of armor in the form of bony plates that cover their body. Here’s proof that sea dragons really do exist.

9. Jellyfish Can Reverse Their Aging Process

muzina_shanghai
© muzina_shanghai/Flickr

Cher famously once wished that she could turn back time and somewhere a jellyfish heard the tune and said, “watch me.” That’s not the real origin story of this jellyfish’s unique power but it’s the one I like to imagine. The jellyfish called Turritopsis dohrnii has been dubbed the immortal jellyfish because it can revert to a younger polyp form after reaching its fully-grown state. Imagine any time you were injured being able to turn back the clock and revert to your more youthful existence! Read a jellyfish’s guide to living life forever young.

10. Marine Iguanas Sneeze Salt

165-Long Walks on the Beach
© Allison Brown

Sharks can’t sneeze … but marine iguanas can! These cool beachy lizards have too much salt in their diet. so evolution came up with a weird and wacky solution: shoot it out in snot rockets. These seaside sweethearts sneeze so much they can often be seen with faces and heads caked in a crust of salt from their own nose goo. All hail the true Salt Bae.

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