Russian deep-sea fisherman Roman Fedortsov pays the bills by catching the marine creatures that people want to eat, but his side project of documenting the bevy of astounding, bizarre, and occasionally unsettling ocean inhabitants that sometimes also get netted in the process has brought him fame.
According to an exhaustive yet highly entertaining tour through his Instagram account, Fedortsov has been posting pictures of freaky yet fascinating sea life for more than four years. In that time, he has captured a range of rare and mysterious species so extensive and a follower base so large (345,000 and growing) that his page looks more like that of a National Geographic photographer than a humble trawlerman based out of the port city of Murmansk.
And since it appears that Fedortsov has encountered some particularly peculiar new specimens in the year since we at IFLScience last took a look at his work, now seems like a good chance to catch up. So, let's take a minute to appreciate the incredible, humbling diversity of life on Earth by looking at some of the most delightfully horrifying forms it takes.
Bear in mind, however, that the animals in these photos may look significantly different if you encountered them swimming, scurrying, or oozing along in their deepwater habitats. Due to extreme differences in environmental pressure between the low-lit 'twilight zone' or the crushing pitch-black 'abyssal zone' and the sea surface, organisms that are brought up the water column quickly will contort into strange shapes, or even explode, as the gas and fluids within their tissues expand rapidly. This is why so many of the fish Fedortsov has snapped have cartoonishly protruding eyes and floppy, amorphous bodies.
Researchers hoping to study the natural physiology of deep-sea organisms either have to observe the creatures in their element using a submersible or bring live specimens to the surface using clever depressurizing containers. Fortunately, the effort is usually worth it. Scientists who venture into the largely unexplored depths often discover multiple new species in a single expedition.