Searching for Deep-Sea Monsters

From the Field posts

Here, a vampire squid is studied on board. © AMNH/J. Sparks

Here, a vampire squid is studied on board. © AMNH/J. Sparks


Curator John Sparks is blogging weekly about the upcoming exhibition, Creatures of Light, which opens on Saturday, March 31.

Although they look like alien beings right out of a (low-budget) horror film with huge, dagger-like teeth, enormous mouths, and their own lights, many of the deep-sea creatures we feature in the exhibition can be found in the deep, perpetually dark waters right off shore from our major cities, such as the Hudson Canyon near New York City and the San Diego Trough off of southern California. To collect these bizarre creatures, we tow a special net behind a boat far below the surface, an important method of collection not just for fishes, but for all kinds of invertebrates, and one that’s allowed us to learn more about the ocean’s inhabitants than any other technique. Once we retrieve the net from the depths, we sort and photograph the still-glowing catch on board. These images show some of the extraordinary deep-sea creatures we collected on a recent expedition off of southern California.

One of the team's finds included a delicate constellation fish. © AMNH/J. Sparks

One of the team's finds included a delicate constellation fish. © AMNH/J. Sparks


This Pacific black dragonfish is one of many deep-sea oddities found off of familiar coastlines. © FMNH/W.L. Smith

This Pacific black dragonfish is one of many deep-sea oddities found off of familiar coastlines. © FMNH/W.L. Smith