The Five Coolest Translucent Ocean Animals

Written by on January 24, 2014 in Marine Life

Earlier this week, New Zealand fishermen Stewart Fraser pulled a strange, translucent creature floating at the surface. He pulled it out of the water to take a closer look. According to the Daily Mail, the creature “baffled Mr. Fraser and all of his fishermen friends.” However, researchers later suggested that it is a salp.

Salps aren’t the only translucent things in the ocean. Being see-through has many advantages in the water, particularly if you’re trying to hide from predators. Here are five of the coolest translucent creatures in the ocean:


Antarctic krill.

Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba. Photo credit: Uwe Kils, CC BY-SA 3.0.

1. Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba
Antarctic krill are a keystone species of the Southern Ocean ecosystem, as they are the main prey for a wide range of predators, from fish to whales. These crustaceans live in huge schools and feed on tiny phytoplankton. In addition to being transparent, Antarctic krill have bioluminescent organs located on various parts of their bodies that can emit a yellow-green light. You can learn more and see more amazing photos of Antarctic krill here.


2. Glass octopus, Vitreledonella richardi
The glass octopus is the only species in the genus Vitreledonella. Adults can reach 45 cm in length and can be found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world. In addition to being transparent, the glass octopus has another interesting characteristic: nearly rectangular eyes. See more amazing photos of the glass octopus here.


Glass squid.

Glass squid. Photo credit: NOAA.

3. Glass squid, family Cranchiidae
The family Cranchiidae comprises about 60 species of glass squid, which can be found worldwide in surface and midwater depths, although some have been observed in deep waters. Most of the 60 species are transparent, a trait that helps camouflage the many that live in shallow, partially sunlight waters. In addition to their lack of color, they can be characterized by their bloated bodies and short arms. Learn more and check out some great photos of the glass squid here.


Icefish larvae.

Icefish larvae. Photo credit: Uwe kils, CC BY-SA 3.0.

4. Icefish, suborder Notothenioidei
Antarctic icefish belong to the suborder Notothenioidei, which includes eight families and 122 species. They can be found in the Southern Ocean as deep as 1,500 m. What makes nototheninoids unique is their clear blood. They survive without hemoglobin (which is responsible for the color of blood and for transporting oxygen) because of the high oxygen content in the Southern Ocean. They also have their very own antifreeze flowing through their bodies, which allows them to live in such cold conditions. You can learn more about the Antarctic icefish’s colorless blood here.


Transparent sea cucumber.

Transparent sea cucumber. Photo credit: CHARMERS via photopin cc.

5. Transparent sea cucumber, Enypniastes sp.
This transparent sea cucumber was discovered by researchers with the Census of Marine Life in the Gulf of Mexico, 2,750 m below the surface. Its whole body is so transparent that you can actually see its digestive tract. It swims very slowly along the seabed, sweeping sediment (and the attached organic material) into its mouth. Learn more about these swimming sea cucumbers here.


For even more, check out National Geographic’s Translucent Creature Photo Gallery.

Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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