Slimy, spindly nightmares hauled from the Australian abyss

Faceless fish, giant anemone-sucking sea spiders, a sea worm that is quite frankly NSFW -- welcome to the deadliest catch of your worst nightmares.

Claire Reilly
Claire Reilly was a video host, journalist and producer covering all things space, futurism, science and culture. Whether she's covering breaking news, explaining complex science topics or exploring the weirder sides of tech culture, Claire gets to the heart of why technology matters to everyone. She's been a regular commentator on broadcast news, and in her spare time, she's a cabaret enthusiast, Simpsons aficionado and closet country music lover. She originally hails from Sydney but now calls San Francisco home.
Claire Reilly
1 of 20 Rob Zugaro

Sea spider

Fear rating: 10 out of 10. 

The crew of the RV Investigator, led by Museums Victoria, has just completed an expedition across the abyss off the coast of Australia and they have seen some gnarly creatures. 

Did you know sea spiders aren't actually spiders? Did you know that their legs are basically thin tubes and that some of them glow in the dark? Did you know that you'll never sleep again?

Most likely to: scuttle out of the corner of your vision at 2 a.m.

2 of 20 Asher Flatt

Spiny crab

Fear rating: 8 spines out of 10.

This red spiny crab is one of the more colourful creatures found by the RV Investigator crew. It's closely related to the hermit crab, but with the kind of outer armour that says, "mess with me and I will end you."

Most likely to: star in a biopic about a tough fighter with a heart of gold.

3 of 20 John Pogonoski

Blind Cusk Eel

Fear rating: 3.

Gross out rating: 10.

Oh, Blind Cusk Eel. You came into this world without eyes, you've traded in scales for slippery gelatinous skin, and you live 2,000 to 6,000 metres below the surface. You are the junk of the ocean (in more ways than one), but we love you all the same.

Most likely to: continually bonk its head on the ocean floor, just trying to find a friend.

4 of 20 Rob Zugaro

Peanut Worm

Fear rating: I... um... pass.

The Peanut Worm (that's pea-NUT) likes hanging around in the dark, and will retract its long head inward when threatened. So, more of a grow-er than a show-er. 

Most likely to: surprise a crew of seamen. 

5 of 20 Asher Flatt

'Faceless' fish

Fear rating: 6.

Sheesh. This "faceless" fish was originally discovered during the first round-the-world oceanographic expedition conducted by the HMS Challenger. Hauled up from 4 km below the surface, it was rediscovered off the coast of Australia 140 years after the Challenger voyage. 

Most likely to: scare the ascot off a gentleman in 1876.

6 of 20 Jérôme Mallefet

Bioluminescent Dragon Fish

Fear rating: 10.

Down in the abyssal twilight zone, Dragon Fish generate their own light to lure prey in a process called bioluminescence. This fish was caught 1,500 metres below the water, presumably coming home from an all-night abyssal rave. 

Most likely to: release an album of deep-cut EDM remixes. 

7 of 20 Rob Zugaro

Cookie Cutter Shark

Fear rating: 11.

"It preys on big fishes, whales, dolphins and the occasional unfortunate swimmer," the Museums Victoria team says. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into 1,000 metres of inky black water.

Most likely to: get out of my dreams, and into my shark.

8 of 20 Rob Zugaro

Red Coffinfish

Fear rating: 4.

Mostly, we're just worried that this guy is desperately lonely. In between walking around the seafloor, the Coffinfish sits and waits in the inky depths, using a lure on its head to attract prey. 

Most likely to: wonder if you guys were just talking about him behind his back.

9 of 20 Asher Flatt

The Lizard Fish

Fear rating: 8 for teeth. 0 for ridiculous expression.

John Pogonoski of the CSIRO Australian National Fish Collection holds a Lizard Fish that has the most "What's up guys!" face we've ever seen. 

Most likely to: rock up at your house party with his awkward cousin. 

10 of 20 Rob Zugaro


Fear rating: 6.

The Corallimorph is like the Eye of Sauron of the sea, but without the evil, piercing gaze. It belongs to the same group of sealife as anemones and hard corals, and just like the Eye of Sauron, it lacks an exoskeleton. 

Most likely to: gaze also into you.

11 of 20 Rob Zugaro

Blob Fish

Fear rating: 2.

Sure, the Blob Fish is well-known for being one of the slimiest and most weird-looking creatures of the sea. But we've never seen one that so clearly wants us to get off his front lawn. 

Most likely to: wonder why those kids in hoodies are loitering on the corner. 

12 of 20 Rob Zugaro

Dumbo Octopus

Fear rating: A for Adorable.

Named for everyone's favourite elephant, the Dumbo Octopus uses ear-like fins to travel through the dark waters of the abyss off the coast of Australia.

Most likely to: glide out of the abyss and into your heart. 

13 of 20 Rob Zugaro

Brittle Star

Fear rating: 3.

Brittle Stars are found all around the globe and have been around for 480 million years, despite having no eyes and no brain. It's good to know that longevity basically comes down to twirling your fabulous arms around a clump of gonads, mouth and stomach. Give me a B! Give me an R!

Most likely to: bring it on.

14 of 20 Asher Flatt

Sea pig

Fear rating: 4.

Described as the vacuum cleaners of the ocean, sea pigs use their tube-like feet to suck microorganisms from the mud. They can gather in big herds if there's enough of a food source. 

Most likely to: scare easily. But they'll be back, and in greater numbers.

15 of 20 Rob Zugaro/Museums Victoria

Flesh-eating crustacean

Fear rating: Wait, did you say flesh-eating?

Sure, it looks like a harmless shrimp, but this tiny crustacean scavenges the ocean floor and will eat everything you hold dear. Hide your kids, hide your whale carcass. 

Most likely to: ask for your leftovers. 

16 of 20 Rob Zugaro/Museums Victoria

Glass sponge

Fear rating: 1... until you get to the pointy end.

While it looks like the kind of dust bunny you'd fish out of your old vacuum cleaner, the glass sponge has a lattice-like skeleton made up of silica filaments that it uses to filter food. 

Most likely to: play the quiet achiever.

17 of 20 Karen Gowlett-Holmes/Museums Victoria

Carnivorous sponges

Fear rating: 7.

These silica-based lifeforms hook tiny crustaceans on their spines and slowly digest them. They might only be 5 to 15 centimetres long, but that's not the best way to go. 

Most likely to: grow in the garden of the damned. 

18 of 20 Asher Flatt/Museums Victoria


Fear rating: 1.

Like a puffer fish, the coffinfish can blow itself up to look bigger to predators. If you zoom in close, you can see the exact moment this fish realised its predator was a giant scientific research vessel. 

Most likely to: get left behind during the family's Christmas vacation and have to fend off burglars. 

19 of 20 Museums Victoria


Fear rating: 0. 

Considering how many terrifying creatures there are in the abyss, it's a miracle something this small and adorable can survive. We assume it just pulls that look and fights predators off with pity.

Most likely to: be the hero the abyss deserves, but not the one it needs right now.

20 of 20 Asher Flatt/Museums Victoria

Grideye Spiderfish

Fear rating: 4.

OK, we'll say it: The abyss has an eye problem. The Spiderfish does away with eyes all together in favour of a greeny-yellow plate on its head, capable of detecting bioluminescent prey. But can it detect love?

Most likely to: see you for who you really are.

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