The Arctic is full of some of the most unusual creatures. From the awkwardly adorable to the downright strange, here are eight of the kookiest life forms thriving at the top of our world.
#1: Arctic Algae
Though not technically a creature, Arctic Algae is still a striking part of the Arctic ecosystem. There are multiple types, such as the eerily hanging Melosira algae, or the luminescent, ethereal algae (shown above). Arctic Algae release ice-binding proteins that allow the plants to cling upside-down to the ice and stay in the sunlight. Other algae types live directly within the ice itself. How’s that for some extreme gardening?
#2: Gelatinous Snailfish
Gelatinous Snailfish (shown above) are across the board the deepest living fish in the world. Unfortunately, this means these squishy mysteries physically melt when taken to the low-pressure surface.
This is the only snailfish that can survive anywhere from right below the ice all the way to the ocean’s bottom, which continues to baffle biologists. They’re about 20 cm (8 inches) long and have - as their name suggests- a gelatinous body. They look remarkably like a tadpole that never grows up.
#3: Northern Wolffish
Endearingly called the “old woman fish” by many Arctic tribes, Northern Wolffish (shown above) have eel-like bodies and jelly-like flesh. Despite their powerful jaws and intimidating teeth, these guys love to snack on invertebrate jellyfish, though they will go for the occasional sea urchin or crab.
#4: Polar Cod
While they may not look like much, Polar Cod (shown above) have an amazing adaptation flowing through their bloodstream: antifreeze! Polar Cod produce glycoproteins (the sweet outer coating of cells) that keep their blood from solidifying at below zero temperatures. With this up their sleeve (or rather, their veins), they’re the most abundant fish in the Arctic.
#5: Greenland Sharks
Greenland Sharks (shown above) rival the Great Whites in size, but are the aquatic embodiment of slow and steady; they have the slowest swimming speed of any shark but the longest lifespan of any vertebrate. The oldest documented Greenland shark is thought to be 512 years old!
#6: Lion’s Mane Jellyfish
Lion’s Mane Jellyfish (shown above) are GIANT. They have bells over 2 meters (7 feet) in diameter and tentacles that reach longer than 36 meters (120 feet) — that’s the length of a blue whale! They also live at the surface and are a frequent sight for fishermen. These giants are fairly gentle though, and their stings are usually mild for humans.
#7: The Dumbo Octopus
The deep Arctic waters host the Dumbo Octopus (shown above). It’s named after Disney’s Dumbo the elephant character, thanks to the giant ear-like fins on either side of its head. Unlike most octopuses, the Dumbo Octopus doesn’t have an ink sac because it rarely encounters predators 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) below the surface.
#8: The Hooded Seal
Get ready to have your mind blown: Hooded Seals (shown above) have an inflatable head! Technically a nasal cavity, males can blow up their hood until it looks like a bright red balloon. Pretty useful when you’re trying to find a mate in the middle of a snowstorm. Hooded Seals are generally more territorial than other seal species and can become aggressive when in defense mode. They live up to 35 years.
Marine Biologist, anyone?
The Arctic is overflowing with life. Our team is doing everything we can to preserve this habitat in a safe way. While we’re constantly connecting with a number of very talented marine biologists, we could still use more biological expertise on our team.
If you’re a marine biologist or know of someone interested in helping us save these Arctic wacky wonders, please contact us. Thank you.
Written by Genevieve Imboden