The Pelagic Stingray is unique!

The vast majority of rays live on the bottom of the sea or, sometimes, lakes and rivers. Wherever they are, they’re almost all bottom-feeders.

The Eagle Ray family contains several large species that swim far above the ocean floor. Most of them still descend to the seabed to eat but others, like the Manta Ray, are able to filter out tiny food straight from the water.

Pelagic Stingrays are different. They’re not Eagle Rays and they don’t have to visit the sea floor to find food. They cruise the open ocean and pluck crustaceans and the occasional fish or jellyfish right from the sea.

They roam far and wide and many populations in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans embark on seasonal migrations. However, since they seldom visit shallow, coastal waters, they’re rarely encountered by humans.

…Images: Makoto Nakashima/_e.t/Scott Perry

Myzostomids are tiny, flattened worms commonly found on crinoids.

Most of them cling to the crinoid’s arms and consume the planktonic food that comes their way. There’ll be quite a lot, since crinoids use those arms to catch plankton and shuffle it down to their hungry mouth. Now there’s another hungry mouth standing in the way!

Many Myzostomids are free to walk around on their host’s body, but there are some who stay in one place and may even cause the crinoid to grow a protective gall around them. There are also a few Myzostomids who are internal parasites.

It has taken a long time to work out what these things actually are. At first, some 200 years ago, they were thought to be flatworms. Then they were thought to be crustaceans, and then a separate group related to water bears.

These days it looks like they’re highly modified polychaete worms. There are fossil crinoids more than 300 million years old that bear the tell-tale scars of Myzostomid activity. It looks like these worms have had a very long time to adapt to their unique habitat!

…Images: Pbsouthwood/Ria Tan

Bowfins are amazing fish from the eastern side of North America.

They are the only surviving species of Amiiform, an order of fish that was once widespread across the world during the Jurassic period.

The Bowfin is their final representative, stalking through dark and dingy waters in search of fish and crustaceans to catch with their sharp teeth.

They can breathe air if they need to, which allows them to tolerate oxygen-deprived waters and probably survive on land for a few days.

One of the coolest things about them is that the males look after their eggs and larvae for several weeks. The tiny babies swim around in a school and their Pappy hangs around to make sure nothing bad happens.

…Images: Phil’s 1stPix/Uncle Chicken

Japetella is a genus containing one or two species of entirely pelagic octopods. They spend their whole life swimming in the ocean’s mesopelagic zone, surrounded by twilight gloom.

They tend to be entirely transparent so that they cast no shadow that could be seen by sharp-eyed predators. But when bioluminescence strikes them, they instantly become a red-brown colour so as to disappear into the darkness.

In happier times, females develop a ring of photophores around the mouth to attract males. It’s light-up lipstick!

…Images: NOAA/MBARI/Sarah Zylinski, Duke University/Michael Vecchione