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10 Real Sea Creatures Directly From Your Nightmares
In the course of our relentless examination of horrifying insects and vicious predators, we have to say that consistently all of them pale in comparison to the stuff that lives in the water. The ocean is the earth's last frontier, and just as we always suspected, it's full of sea monsters.
Well, it has the Predator's mouth, anyway. In some ways, the sarcastic fringehead (yes, that's its actual name) is more horrifying, because before it opens its mouth, it just looks like a regular fish with old geezer jowls ...
... before its entire face opens up into a gaping sprawl of predatory terror. Sarcastic fringeheads are incredibly territorial, by the way, and they use their enormous jaws to battle each other in a ritual that looks like two parachutes trying to make out:
And no, we don't know why they are called that. They don't look very sarcastic to us, but their name makes them seem less frightening and a lot more douchey.
Discovery "No, dude, totally, eat all my fries, I didn't pay for them or anything."
They look like something you'd find in a meteor impact crater, but really, predatory tunicates are a kind of sea squirt that live in deep-sea canyons off California. What sets them apart from their placid sea squirt cousins is that the predatory tunicate is like an underwater Venus flytrap -- it sits there, rooted in place, waiting for some unwitting prey to pass close to its gaping, incandescent mouth, and then snatches it up. With that kind of diet, they can't afford to be very picky.
In addition to looking like aliens from a SyFy movie about creatures that bite the dicks off passing swimmers, the tunicates can have sex with themselves if they can't find another to mate with. Which is helpful since, you know, they're stuck to the ground. What else are you going to do to fight the boredom?
That monstrosity is called a northern stargazer. OK, whose goddamned idea was it to call it that? The word "stargazer" brings to mind some wispy fish with bright hippie colors and big cartoon eyes; this looks like the mud has spontaneously grown a face. Well, you know who else gazes up at the stars? The devil, from his throne in hell, apparently.
The northern stargazer is actually a kind of fish, if you can believe that. Most of it exists under the mud, so you can normally only see the horrible bits.
Wikipedia "Go ahead, Scooter, get a real close look. I dare you."
The northern stargazer has its eyes and mouth on top of its head due to its feeding strategy -- when it feels like a snack, it buries itself in the dirt in as little as four seconds flat, becoming nothing but a grimacing skull-face in the mud. When something tasty swims by overhead, the last thing it ever sees is something out of Jim Henson's nightmares.
Wait, did we say that last thing looked like a monster from a SyFy movie about a creature that bites the dicks off passing swimmers? Because we clearly spoke too soon. Look at the expression on that thing's face! It wants to eat your junk!
As if that wasn't bad enough, they apparently have organs above their eyes that can emit electrical shocks. Thanks, Nature!
Wikipedia "Don't mention it. Wait until you see the rape-sharks I'm cooking up."
OK, what are we looking at here? Is that a plant? Whatever it is, it's coming unraveled around the edges.
That is the carpet shark, which also goes by the ridiculous name of tasseled wobbegong. It obviously gets its name from the fact that it looks like a throw rug, except that it's a throw rug full of jagged teeth that will eat the shit out of you. It's like a welcome mat for the ocean that also hates you. Here's one that's in the process of swallowing another shark whole, face-first:
When photographers came across this shark-on-shark action, at first they figured that there was only one shark on the scene, and that its head was somehow obscured from view. And it wasn't moving, so maybe it was asleep or something. Luckily, the reality is less frightening than their next thought, which was that the seabed had become sentient and rose up to swallow a shark whole.
io9.com "The shark eats you, I eat the shark, nothing in the goddamn ocean touches me. Circle of life."
The giant oarfish, or "King of Herrings," as it's referred to by the lower-class herrings, is the world's longest bony fish. How long is it? Above is one being carried by a contingent of Navy SEALs, who probably had to do battle with it at some point. It's extremely rare, and most of the specimens found have been dead. But dead is exactly the way we like a monster that looks like it could deep-throat an oak tree.
At up to 56 feet long, scientists speculate that the giant oarfish may have been the source of the sea serpent legend -- hey, we told you sea monsters were real. And speaking of which ...
OK, we know there's something called the giant squid out there, but it's hardly the kind of beast that could drag your ship down to Davy Jones' Locker as described by old-timey sea legends. We used to assume that such a thing never existed -- until 2007, when fishermen dragged aboard something that we're now calling the colossal squid.
tepapa.gov.nz "Hyper squid" just sounded too much like a rejected Metal Gear character.
Scientists don't use the term "colossal" lightly. At over 900 pounds, with tentacles stretching 13 feet, it's by far the largest squid ever caught. Its eyes are described as being "as wide as dinner plates," and if you tried to make calamari out of it, the rings would be as big as tractor tires and flavored with the screams of hundreds of old-timey fishermen.
The folks who caught it had no choice but to freeze it on board their vessel, we assume after a spectacular battle like the Kraken fight scene from one of those Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Since then, it's been on display in a museum in New Zealand, because apparently the best way to exact revenge upon a mighty beast from the days of yore is to simply humiliate it.
The reaction to this kind of photo is always the same: "So what? The diver is probably like 100 feet away, and the fish is about to lick the camera lens. So how big is that fish really?"
Well, the mola mola, or ocean sunfish, is the heaviest fish in the world. For some sense of scale, here's a picture of it dwarfing a dwarf.
Wikipedia That little girl has a lot of faith in some sailor's ability to drunkenly tie knots.
The freakishly huge sunfish gets its name from the fact that it spends its time "sunbathing" at the surface of the water, in part to invite birds to fly down and gorge themselves on the skin parasites that infest it.
Wikipedia "Come, my friends, and let my atrocious personal hygiene be your feast!"
They are apparently harmless to humans, which is a good thing, because as you can see, your whole torso would fit into its mouth.
Ever wondered what it would be like to give a fish a high-five? Now you can find out! This is one of nine new specimens of handfish that were recently discovered near Tasmania, Australia. Not only do they have four "limbs" where their fins should be, but they use them to walk around down there. And look how friendly the little guy is! There's no way that little face is about to tell us to fuck off!
Seriously, though, the best way to understand how creepy that is is to see it in action:
Looking at them, we're pretty sure evolution is only about three generations away from granting these guys the ability to flip us the bird.
National Geographic Also, they almost look wrong without a cigarette hanging from their mouths.
Nobody made the mistake they made with the northern stargazer of giving this undersea horror a harmless, goofy name. That there is the black dragonfish. Of course it is.
The black dragonfish lives deep in the ocean where light can't reach it, but it has a strategy for seeking out its unlucky prey -- its body emits a kind of infrared light that only it can see, meaning that it's basically wearing a little pair of night vision goggles while everything else is swimming around blind.
niwa.co.nz It's like if H.R. Giger designed a Maglite.
By the way, every image you see of one of these things is female. The male of the species doesn't have such impressive teeth, and in fact, he doesn't even have a working stomach. It's theorized that the males are used for breeding purposes only, which means they are born with no other destiny but to have sex with a 15-inch death eel.
lifesci.ucsb.edu Which, now that we think about it, is almost certainly some dude's fetish.
First of all, kudos to the guy in that picture for handling that thing without gloves.
This thing is called a geoduck, pronounced "gooey-duck" because that makes no sense. It's a kind of clam whose body is too big for its shell, and on top of being the most phallic thing in the ocean, it lives for an incredibly long time (up to 140 or so years) and can grow to be disturbingly big.
ecy.wa.gov We can't vouch for the authenticity of this old-timey photograph, but we will note that it's from an era long before Photoshop.
Oh, and did we mention that this thing is considered a delicacy? At least that's what we have to assume people are doing with them.
Top Tenz Every man has had at least one discouraging moment like this.
Because it's a pricey delicacy, farming them makes for quite a lucrative business. And if you haven't eaten in the last 48 hours, you can safely watch Mike Rowe wade around in a sea of floating dicks on Dirty Jobs. If you're a male, have fun trying to cut into one of these things on your plate without involuntarily cringing.