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Freaks of the Deep
Sean Pyles | Photo: Anders Nilsen | March 25, 2014
If the Bay’s a circus, then these six creatures are its bearded ladies.
The San Francisco Bay is home to all kinds of amazing aquatic creatures. Here, and in the slideshow above, check out six of our favorites:
Three thousand feet down, under the Golden Gate Bridge and in the Monterey Canyon, the humbly named ratfish eats as voraciously as its rodent namesake: shrimp, clams, worms, starfish, and all manner of small finned creatures. Its tapered body ends in a poisonous spine, but its toxins only affect humans. Its Latin name, which means “water hare,” refers to the mousy facial features that practically render it cute.
Measuring an inch and a half long, this creature is often referred to as the “praying mantis of the sea” due to its alien-esque shape. Aside from its gnarled posture, this invasive shrimp (originally from Japan) is just like its pink kin: It feeds on detritus and other floating particles while drifting with the currents.
Technically, this is not an eel. One look at its fish face will tell you that. Nonetheless, the juxtaposition of its eel-like body and its behavioral tendencies won it its nickname. It’s popular on dinner plates nowadays, as commercial fishing of the species is considered insignificant.
Atlantic Oyster Drill
This invasive species munches on barnacles, mussels, and oysters (obviously). With a state-of-the-art boring organ, called a radula, the drill secretes an acidic chemical to soften the shell of its prey—as if shellfish didn’t have enough problems. It can be found slurping up mollusks in the shallow waters of the Bay.
Bigeye Thresher Shark
A deepwater dweller (it lurks around the Monterey Canyon), the thresher uses the Bay as its very own swinger’s den to get frisky with other sharks. It can reach a whopping 20 feet long and weigh 1,000 pounds—all from hunting schools of fish and squid. It uses its curiously long tail to whack and stun its prey, making for an easy meal.
Chinese Mitten Crab
It’s named for the patches of fur on its claws, but cuddly this creature is not. It’s an invasive species (originally from Korea and China) that has chosen to target local water treatment plants, where it burrows en masse into the pipes, causing clogs that could make even a plumber shudder.
Originally published in the April issue of San Francisco magazine