The deep sea threw up some pretty strange goings on in 2023, and while we stumbled across mystery orbs and strange pizza-box-like rocks, scientists were learning all sorts with the aid of remote-operated vehicles (ROVs) and *checks notes* seal scientists wearing funky hats. One of the ocean’s weirdest critters, the football fish, washed up on a beach in California, and we got some great footage of the much cuter dumbo octopus and peculiar bigfin squid.
Here are our deep sea highlights for 2023.
Giant Megalodon's Serrated Tooth Found In The Deep Sea By An ROV
During an expedition aboard Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus, a team of researchers operating the ROV Hercules stumbled across a megalodon (Otodus megalodon) tooth at a depth of around 3,090 meters (9,842 feet) within the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.
“Living Fossil” Among 15 Species Found At Newly Discovered Vents In The Galápagos
A high-temperature hydrothermal vent field was discovered in the Galápagos Marine Reserve. As well as being home to hot chimneys towering up to 15 meters (49 feet) tall, scientists discovered a host of species never spotted in the region before, including a “living fossil” mollusk.
Trail Of Crabs Lures Scientists To Incredible Deep-Sea Discovery Off The Galápagos Islands
There were more hijinks in the Galápagos as new deep-sea coral reefs were uncovered, and scientists were able to track down a new hydrothermal vent field by following a trail of crustaceans. The squat lobsters led them to the new field, which is larger than a soccer pitch and made up of five geyser-like chimneys and three hot springs.
Seal Scientists Wearing Funky Hats Discover 2-Kilometer-Deep Canyon Under Antarctica
By fixing devices atop the heads of some very helpful southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) and Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii), researchers have been able to discover more about a hard-to-reach area in Vincennes Bay in Antarctica. The cooperative pinnipeds located a huge underground canyon that is thought to be 2 kilometers (1.3 miles) deep and has been named the Mirounga-Nuyina Canyon in honor of the seals that discovered it.
Some Deep-Sea Anglerfish Spend Their Whole Lives Swimming Upside Down
As deep-sea weirdos go, they don’t get much more bizarre than anglerfish. But if their nightmarish looks and dangly bioluminescent lures aren’t enough for you, some species of anglerfish have another strange string to their bows: they spend their whole lives upside down.
Strange Deep Sea "Hoofprints" In New Zealand May Finally Have An Explanation
Mysterious hoofprints on the sea floor more than 450 meters (1,476 feet) deep in Aotearoa New Zealand’s waters have had scientists scratching their heads since 2013. This year, researchers at the country’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) came up with an explanation for the cryptic markings, which unfortunately doesn’t involve a small underwater horse. The culprits, they believe, are deep-sea rattails, also known as grenadiers (Coelorinchus) – some species of which have a pointed snout that looks suspiciously like the peculiar seafloor prints.
Deep-Sea Octagon Mystery Solved
Hoofprints weren’t the only strange marks scientists found on the seafloor this year. Mysterious octagons stamped across the seabed of the Fram Strait between Greenland and Svalbard had scientists scratching their heads. Some were mini while others were bigger than a basketball, but what was causing them?
Remote-operated vehicles (ROV) were able to get to the bottom of the peculiar prints, discovering that they appear to be the witness marks of Dumbo octopus feeding events. Though a different species to the Grimopteuthis in the video below, they're also known as dumbo octopuses for their ear-like fins.
New Species Of Alien-Like 20-Armed Antarctic Feather Star Found
The 20-armed Antarctic strawberry feather star, Promachocrinus fragarius, was one of four new-to-science species described in a paper that explored the cryptic diversity of a genus of free-swimming stemless crinoids. Looking a little like a face hugger that got a leggy upgrade, these alien-like organisms are related to starfish, sea cucumbers, and other echinoderms.
Ocean Explorers Rediscover Long-Lost Japanese WWII Vessel Akagi 18,000 Feet Below Ocean
In a monumental occasion for marine archaeology and world history, explorers aboard E/V Nautilus successfully completed the first deep-water visual dive to revisit the Second World War (WWII) Imperial Japanese Navy vessel, Akagi. Seen at a depth of 18,000 feet (5.5 kilometers) below the surface of the ocean, a Japanese and American-led expedition team conducted the first visual survey of the wreckage with a "heaviness of the heart like tears that pour like rain" since it sank to the dark ocean seafloor 81 years ago.
2023 might have been one hell of a year for the deep sea, but 2024 is looking to be the year of space with some seriously cool missions planned.