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A Creepy 'Faceless Fish' Returns to Haunt Humanity After Over 100 Years

The Faceless Cusk's underside, showing its mouth | John Pogonoski/Australlian National Fish Collection
The Faceless Cusk's underside, showing its mouth | John Pogonoski/Australlian National Fish Collection

Obviously some of the creatures of the sea look adorable, approachable, and even pet-worthy -- the kind you'd like to take home with you, make your own, and maybe even name Freddie. Others, like Australia's newly re-discovered "faceless cusk," will give you nightmares and remind you that sea monsters still roam free in this world.

This "faceless fish" with a bizarre 16-inch body and a face Guillermo del Toro would love lives near the bottom of the ocean, and was rediscovered recently after a month-long expedition off the coast of New South Wales, Australia, with the findings reported in the Guardian. The last time one was ever seen was in 1873 off the coast of Papua New Guinea. Dr. Tim O'Hara of Australia's Museums Victoria led the expedition, which included scientists from Museums Victoria and Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). The chief scientist himself didn't have very nice things to say about the creature, either.

"It looks like two rear ends on a fish, really," he told the Guardian via a satellite link. The cusk sports a large bulbous head with two small nostrils and no visible eyes, a mouth that sits underneath the rest of its body, and a large anal fin. Snout to tail it's one of the weirdest fish in the ocean, and that's before you realize that its mouth is what zoologists call "protrusible," meaning it extends outward to catch and trap prey before sucking itself back into its body, where the fish's "gill rakers" help it digest its catch.

The scientists behind the discovery say it was just a highlight from the many samples they collected on the research expedition. The faceless cusk was discovered after trawling about 2.5 miles below the ocean. They've turned up lots of debris and ocean trash along the way, but also "bioluminescent sea stars and gigantic sea spiders as big as a dinner plate."

“The experts tell me that about a third of all specimens coming on board are new totally new to science,” O’Hara told the Guardian. “They aren’t all as spectacular as the faceless fish, but there’s a lot of sea fleas and worms and crabs and other things that are totally new and no one has seen them ever before.”

h/t The Guardian

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Eric Vilas-Boas is a writer and editor at Thrillist. Follow him @e_vb_.