A feast for your eyes
The colorful world beneath the ocean's surface is full of quirky creatures of all shapes and sizes. Some animals, like the egg yolk jellyfish pictured above, are uncanny in their resemblance to foods we eat.
Dive in and take a look at some of these ocean critters with culinary roots.
Photo: Durden Images/Shutterstock
Lettuce sea slug
Elysia crispata has a ruffled exterior that reminds us of a head of iceberg lettuce, especially when it takes on a greenish hue. "The tightly packed and folded appendages, called parapodia, give the slug its lettuce-like appearance," Azula's Katrina Rossos explains.
While it's not really a vegetable, the lettuce sea slug knows a bit about photosynthesis. It gets energy from sunlight via chloroplasts from the algae it eats.
Thalassoma lutescens, also known as the yellow-brown wrasse, is named for its bright color and long shape. A forager in the coral reef, the banana wrasse can even grow to be the size of a banana, up to 12 inches long. Just like bananas, they live in bunches — schools of fish that can span almost 100 feet long.
Photo: Ethan Daniels/Shutterstock
Chocolate chip sea star
Protoreaster nodosus, also known as the horned sea star, is named for its brown spines that appear to come in both milk chocolate and dark chocolate varieties. Though they're meant to scare off predators, they've got us craving chocolate chip cookies in a big way.
Negaprion brevirostris earns its nickname not because it looks like it just tasted something sour, but also because of the yellowish tint that helps it blend into the sand while hunting along the ocean floor. Like lemons, these sharks prefer the warmth, sticking to shallower waters mostly in the Gulf of Mexico.
Cephea cephea, also known as the crown jellyfish, has lumpy arms that resemble cauliflower. Fittingly, the cauliflower jellyfish is edible as a delicacy for both sea turtles and humans.
Photo: Steven Fish/Shutterstock
Amphiprion frenatus, also known as the red clownfish or the tomato clownfish, is a beautiful bright red anemone-dweller. He may look like his cousin Nemo, but his much darker hue sets him apart from other clownfish.
The squished-flat Halieutichthys aculeatus sneaks around the sandy ocean floor, almost invisible to predators. Think of him as a sneaky flapjack with gills!
Photo: Rich Carey/Shutterstock
Like the jellyfish at the beginning of our article, the fried-egg jellyfish (Cotylorhiza tuberculata) is a resident of the Mediterranean Sea. Much larger like an actual egg, these jellies can grow to be more than 13 inches in diameter.
Photo: Pete Niesen/Shutterstock
Epinephelus tukula, also known as the potato grouper or potato bass, is a whopper of a fish. Growing as long as 8 feet and weighing as much as 240 pounds, this fish is large but friendly – unless you're its prey. They hide behind coral reefs and sneak attack their prey, which includes other fish, crabs, squid and even small rays.
Photo: Matt Knoth/Shutterstock
Acanthodoris lutea turns bright orange to warn predators of its nasty taste. At barely an inch in length, this neon nudibranch looks like a fleck of orange peel crawling along the rocks.
Photo: Jonathan Vera Caripe/Flickr
Zaops ostreus is a tiny, translucent crab that makes its home within oysters and clams – a pretty sweet deal. It eats what these mollusks eat and uses their hard shells for protection.
Cleidopus gloriamaris, also known as the knightfish or coat-of-mail fish, is a striking reef-dweller with bold markings. Living off the coast of Australia, pineapplefish sports bioluminescent "navigation lights" in its jaw.
Photo: Ria Tan/Shutterstock
Garlic bread sea cucumber
Vaguely resembling what you might pull out of a basket at your local Italian restaurants, Holothuria scabra are served in Chinese markets as a delicacy called "trepang." The species is listed as "vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List because of overcollection and habitat loss.
Photo: Grigorev Mikhail/Shutterstock
Puntius titteya is one of the prettiest fish on the list — it's no wonder it's a popular aquarium pet. Native to Sri Lanka, the cherry barb has been introduced to Mexico and Colombia but currently faces threats from overfishing.