Deep in the ocean, beyond where light reaches, thousands of new species are being documented by the Census Of Marine Life. From the tiny and adorable to the nightmarish, all of these creatures from the Cthulian depths are entrancing.

The photic zone is an area of the ocean that extends beyond the reach of sunlight, as deep as 5,000 meters. For the first time, a serious effort has begun to try and catalogue the vast array of deep sea life, under the auspices of the Census Of Marine Life (COML). Currently, they've identified more than 17,000 species inhabiting the dark depths, which will join with information from hundreds of other projects next October to reveal the complete results of the census.

Most of these creatures survive on marine snow—particles of decaying plants and animals that descend to the ocean floor. This transparent sea cucumber was found at 2,750m, creeping forward at a rate of 2 cm per minute, sweeping detritus into its mouth.

[via COML]

Photos courtesy of Larry Madin, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The tiny copepod, from the Atlantic.
Image © Büntzow/Corgosinho

One of the dumbo octopods, which can grow up to five feet in length.
Photo by David Shale

The jewel squid has tiny light organs all along its body, which emit and perceive light.

This is only the fifth ever found Neocyma, discovered between 2,000 and 2,500m. Image from David Shale.

The northern comb jelly has oscillating lights up and down its length.

The snake pipefish

The "wildcat" tubeworm, which drills for oil, then dines on the chemicals inside when it hits a small well.

It wouldn't be the deep sea without nightmare fuel. Like the loosejaw, with its extendible lower jaw and red-light sensitive eyes.

Or the swallower.