Have you ever seen a shrimp that glows in the dark? What about a remora suctioned to a manta ray? Here are 11 of the weirdest ocean animal behaviors to look out for on your next dive:
1. Parrotfish Mucus Cocoons
Before they go to sleep, parrotfish surround themselves in a cocoon of mucus. This helps them mask their scent to avoid predation, plus it helps keep parasites at bay while they lie sedentary for the night.
2. Jawfish Mouthbrooding
Yellow-headed jawfish are one of several species of fish that are mouthbrooders, meaning they incubate their eggs in their mouths. Periodically, they spit out the entire egg mass to clean it and keep it hydrated.
3. Tongue-Eating Parasite
One of the weirder symbiotic relationships in the ocean, a small parasitic isopod called the tongue-eating louse crawls into a fish’s mouth through its gills, then eats and replaces the fish’s tongue.
4. Bumphead Parrotfish Ram Coral
Bumphead parrotfish get their names from their odd feeding behaviors. They use their massive heads to “bump” into coral, breaking off small pieces that are easier to digest.
5. Remoras Riding on Megafauna
Remoras are nothing if not opportunistic. Also known as “suckerfish,” this species is often seen hitching a ride on marine megafauna like sharks and rays. The fish attach to their hosts’ bodies and feed on their food scraps, occasionally repaying the favor by cleaning off parasites.
6. Octopuses Super Eyeballs
Octopuses are colorblind but use their uniquely shaped pupils to separate wavelengths. By adjusting the depth of their eyeballs, they can focus on any wavelength individually.
7. Parrotfish Poop Sand
You can thank parrotfish for our white sandy beaches. These fish use their large beaks to eat hard coral, and after they’ve digested, they secrete the ground-up coral as sand. In fact, one parrotfish can create up to 700 pounds of sand per year.
8. Glow-in-the-Dark Animals
Certain species, like turtles, eels, shrimp, and some sharks, exhibit the phenomenon of natural biofluorescence, meaning they absorb dim light and reflect it as a brighter color that glows against a dark background. This is different from bioluminescence, which occurs when animals produce their own light.
9. Blennies Hiding in Coral Holes
Blennies are shy species, choosing to spend most of their time in tiny crevices like abandoned wormholes that are formed in hard corals and rocks. They back into the holes to keep an eye on their surroundings, and they only leave for very short periods of time.
10. Sharks’ Tooth-Like Scales
Sharks’ skin is covered with small tooth-like scales called denticles. These “skin teeth” reduce drag, allowing the sharks to swim faster. They also help to ward off predators.
11. Mantis Shrimp Punching Prey
Mantis shrimp have two appendages called dactyl clubs that they use to punch prey at up to 50 miles per hour, smashing their victims’ shells with the force of a .22-caliber bullet.