With Halloween around the corner and spooky season in full force, here are 5 ocean animals that are always ready to go trick-or-treating.
Halloween hermit crab
The halloween hermit crab (Ciliopagurus strigatus) is native to the Indo-Pacific region. They are omnivorous reef scavengers, feeding on both live and dead animals. These crabs grow to around 5 centimetres in length and get their name from their orange and dark red striped legs. Their colouring keeps them in the Halloween spirit year-round!
Ogcocephalidae (OGG-oh-seff-al-LEE-day) is a family of anglerfish, commonly called batfish. They’re found worldwide in warm and temperate oceans. Batfish have wide and flattened bodies and are often covered in lumps and spines. Many batfish have altered pelvic fins, allowing them to walk on the seafloor! They feed on fish, crustaceans and worms – so if you see any trick-or-treating, this is what they’re hoping for.
Credit: Wikimedia/NOAA’s Fisheries Collection; SEFSC Pascagoula Laboratory; Collection of Brandi Noble, NOAA/NMFS/SEFSC
Vampire squid (Vampyroteuthis infernalis) are found in the deep ocean (600 to 900 metres) and aren’t technically a squid. While they look like – and are closely related to – octopuses, slight differences place them in their own order (Vampyromorphida). Vampire squid have 8 arms connected by webbing, and range in colour from jet-black to pale red. They feed on ‘marine snow’ (particles of dead animals, rotting materials, etc. falling from above). Even more spooky, their scientific name means ‘vampire squid from hell’.
Credit: Wikimedia/Thiele in Chun, C. 1910. Die Cephalopoden
Chimaera (subclass Holocephali) are scaleless fish, closely related to sharks, skates and rays. They live at depths between 400 to 2000 metres and feed on small fish and invertebrates, like crabs. Their eyes have reflective tissue layers that help absorb light in the dark deep sea and most also have a venomous spine for protection. They are commonly called ghost sharks – boo!
Credit: Wikimedia/NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, INDEX-SATAL 2010, NOAA/OER
It’s probably obvious how the pumpkin starfish (Astrosarkus spp.) got its name – it’s rounded, bright orange and is even the same texture as a pumpkin. This starfish is quite large (growing to 30 centimetres in diameter) and is found across the Indo-Pacific. While not a lot is known about them, a new species (Astrosarkus lu) from Western Australia was recently described (just in time for Halloween!).
Credit: Mah, C.L. 2023. A new species of Astrosarkus from Western Australia including new Mesophotic occurrences of Indian Ocean Oreasteridae (Valvatida, Asteroidea). Memoirs of Museum Victoria 82: 143–165 (CC BY-NC 4.0)