In our continuing quest to point out just how amazing and awful nature is, we continually find that all of the worst shit lives underwater. This is where you find nature's most disgusting, horrifying, and gleefully homicidal children.
But some citizens of Neptune's kingdom go another route, taking on guises that look less like nightmares and more like surreal hallucinations that exist only in the mind of someone who just gobbled a handful of peyote buttons after a nice Robitussin aperitif. Like ...
Remember how, in the movie Avatar, all of the "exotic" creatures on that alien planet looked like tall, painted humans or slightly modified versions of wildlife from any average Earth jungle? Think about how crazy that is when we have creatures as alien as the Atolla jellyfish living right in our own motherfucking ocean:
NOAA Ocean Explorer, via Wikipedia
Now imagine Captain Kirk having sex with it.
But if that's not quite alien enough for you, turn out the lights and let the party begin:
National Geographic, via Deep Sea News
No doubt evolved during Mother Nature's warehouse rave phase.
Yeah, now that shit looks less like an alien and more like the goddamned UFO it arrived in. It's popularly called the alarm jellyfish, and to appreciate it, you really need to see its pulsing light show in action (note: We are 100 percent sure they did not add the porn soundtrack to this clip -- that's just this creature's mating call):
Yeah, the Atolla jellyfish is basically a Pink Floyd concert with more tentacles and fewer floating pigs, and it's oftentimes the only thing visible in the abyss surrounding it. And that's just the way it likes it: The Atolla jellyfish doesn't use its built-in lava lamp to hunt, but rather as a scream for help. If the jellyfish senses that something is interested in tasting the rainbow, it suddenly lights up like a rave, something that scientists call its burglar alarm response. The point is to either scare the attacker away or attract something even bigger so the diner suddenly becomes the buffet.
E. Widder, NOAA
This assumes that most deep-sea predators prefer their food to look like a Spencer Gifts.
The tactic is so effective, in fact, that we humans are stealing it for ourselves. Since dropping lit-up games of Simon into the water wasn't achieving results, biologist Edith Widder constructed an electronic Atolla jellyfish replicant that can attract rare undersea fauna for observation and study.
E. Widder, via Treehugger.com
It's a lot easier to get baked and watch the light show when you don't have to dive hundreds of feet to do it.
Holy fucking shit. We've just gone from "looks like a psychedelic alien" to "looks like a boss character from a survival horror video game."
That there would be the skeleton shrimp, a demonic overlord that has entered our dimension to seek vengeance for all of its brethren you've thrown on the barbie and slathered in breadcrumbs.
CaRMS Photogallery / Fisheries and Oceans Canada
"I am here to dip your soul in cocktail sauce."
Actually, skeleton shrimp aren't even shrimp at all, but rather amphipods. And you need a magnifying glass to reveal their horror, since they're only a few millimeters long at best. So if Disney wants to cast their creepy asses as the villains in Finding Nemo 2, they'll have to scale them up a bit (and then watch the parent complaints come rolling in).
Not that their size makes us feel that much better about them; it just means that if you go swimming, you could have this little guy floating into your ear canal and not even know it:
Peter J. Bryant
And of course they have giant claws (proportional to their bodies, anyway), because no spiritual harbinger of terror and despair is complete without them. Those nasty-looking things (called gnathopods) excrete poison and are perfect for both murder and holding down males during mating sessions. But girl skeletons have poisonous claws too, so if the male doesn't deliver like he should, she will poison-stab him to death.
Helgoland Marine Research, via Scientific American
Yet one more reason to learn to spoon.
If you're not familiar with how deep-sea evolution works, basically it's like this: All of the greatest fears and darkest nightmares of humanity rise up to the atmosphere, where they are eventually carried over the oceans and rained down, causing our collective terror to descend into the cold darkness and, over time, congeal into writhing horrors like you see above.
Also there's probably like pressure adaptation or some shit involved.
In order to cope with the knowledge that we share the planet with such monsters, we humans give these creatures exceptionally ridiculous names. This one we call the stoplight loosejaw, which sounds like the worst SpongeBob spinoff imaginable.
"Stoplight" refers to how the fish glows red. This is especially helpful, because most deep-sea desserts (the loosejaw's preferred term for its neighbors) can't detect any colors outside of blue. By illuminating red instead, the loosejaw can essentially hunt with an invisible flashlight.
Herring PJ, Cope C., via Wikimedia
Which seems preferable to dying with those glowing red eyes fresh on the mind.
Then there's the "loosejaw" part. The stoplight can almost completely separate its lower jaw from its head and stretch its head so far past its body that it damn near decapitates itself. This creates a Mortal Kombat-esque spike pit that can quickly impale any passing prey, as well as cause any freaked-out witnesses to wonder when the babies will start popping out of its neck.
Charles Holder, via Wikipedia
It almost looks like it's smiling. Enjoy seeing that whenever you close your eyes from now on.
Also, in order to reduce water resistance (and for added general creepiness), there's no floor to the stoplight's lower jaw. This allows it to droop its goofy-yet-charmingly-awful bear-trap jaw to ludicrously low levels and keep its head dangling by a membrane, like an execution performed by a dull, rusty ax. To its prey, it no doubt appears to have been brutally murdered ... right up until it eats them.