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Mistaken Monsters

Many of the aquatic species we know and love today were once believed to be sea monsters. Stories were told and retold through many generations about “sea monsters” that threatened sailors who dared to enter the dangerous, unknown waters. While the tales still live on as spooky stories, today we know these animals are not monsters at all… Let’s take a closer look at some of these “monster-ous” and intriguing animals!

A Multi-Armed, Transparent Monster AKA a Jellyfish

Jellyfish have some decidedly un-human traits. For example, they function without a heart or brain. They also have the ability to clone themselves. And, in a zombie-like twist, it’s even been discovered that the Turritpsis dohrnii jellyfish are biologically immortal. Luckily we know now that jellyfish do not intend to hurt humans and their uniqueness is more intriguing than frightening. (Pictured: an upside-down jellyfish)

A Creature unlike Any Other AKA a Giant Pacific Octopus

A Giant Pacific Octopus’s eight large arms made them easy targets for folklore and scary tales. It is well known today that octopus have DNA unlike any other species on this planet. We also know that octopuses have three hearts, blue blood, a keratin beak and the ability to squeeze into extremely small spaces. It’s pretty easy to imagine how an octopus’s alien appearance could have scared sailors who had never seen one before. Now these highly intelligent creatures are much better understood and appreciated.

A Scaleless Fish AKA an Oyster Toadfish

It seems silly that a moderately sized fish would seem scary, but people generally become frightened by the unusual or unknown, not what is actually threatening and the oyster toadfish is different. For example, it can survive out of water for a lengthy period of time. If that wasn’t startling enough, oyster toadfish flattened heads are scaleless and they have fleshy flaps on their cheeks and jaws.

Sharp Toothed Creatures AKA Sharks

Sharks’ size and sharp teeth earned them the nickname “man-eaters” and made them the basis of many horror stories. In truth, sharks are not interested in preying on humans. People are a bigger threat to sharks than sharks are to us by a long shot. In fact, while people kill an estimated 100 million sharks every year there were only 5 shark-related human deaths in 2017. From their sandpaper-like dermal denticle skin (designed to protect and reduce friction) to their flouride-coated teeth, there’s a lot more to revere than fear when it comes to sharks.

Named Like a Fire-Breathing Fairy Tale Monster AKA Seadragons

While old legends of dragons swimming across the Mediterranean to countries like Italy and Greece might have sent chills down a few spines, clearly these seadragons are not dangerous monsters. The weedy seadragons pictured below are well camouflaged because they are poor swimmers that lack stomachs or teeth.

We’ve come a long way from believing that every unfamiliar underwater animal is a monster ready to cause harm. While so much of the ocean is still to be explored, any discoveries we will make promise to be more fascinating than frightening. Discover these and other curious creatures on your next visit to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium.

With eyes up top and mouths down below, how do stingrays locate their food? You'll find out when you feed one.

Feed a Stingray
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