The ocean is a minefield of terror, but you already know that by now. But lurking in the most cavernous depths of Earth is one fish so ghastly it'll likely make you reconsider the divide between our own reality and hell.
Researchers for the last three years have been studying the Mariana snailfish, the deepest dwelling fish ever observed. First caught in 2014, the creature resembles more of a cancerous, snot-wad than anything you've probably associated with fish. In a new paper published in Zootaxa, researchers publicized their findings for the first time, probing (ostensibly) whether the fish's natural habitat is a literal portal to the underworld. Marina snailfish inhabit the Marina Trench near Guam, and feed on crustaceans and shrimp at 26,686 feet below the ocean's surface. This sounds like something a demon might do.
Here's what the specimen looks like when observed by people who shockingly do not immediately kill it with fire:
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If you want to view the dark side of mother nature through the prism of pop-culture, snailfish are the deep ocean's equivalent to the Demodogs of Stranger Things. They're basically roving vacuum machines, feasting on smaller invertebrates that invariably cross their paths in the darkened waters. As Thomas Linley of Newcastle University, a co-author of the paper, said in a statement:
“Snailfishes have adapted to go deeper than other fish and can live in the deep trenches. Here they are free of predators, and the funnel shape of the trench means there’s much more food. There are lots of invertebrate prey and the snailfish are the top predator. They are active and look very well-fed.”
Here's the snailfish devouring the decayed remains of something gross on the ocean floor:
Oh yeah, and CT scan photos of the snailfish aren't likely to imbue you with warm, comforting feelings either. Here's one that you should never show a small child:
While the ocean's deepest fish might reach a new record for unprecedented creepiness, it actually doesn't get that much better on your journey upwards towards oxygen and the light of day. Trust us.
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Sam Blum is a News Staff Writer for Thrillist. He's also a martial arts and music nerd who appreciates a fine sandwich and cute dogs. Find his clips in The Guardian, Rolling Stone, The A.V. Club and Esquire. He's on Twitter @Blumnessmonster.