May 22 is the official International Day for Biological Diversity, as noted by the United Nations. In honor of this momentous day, let's take a moment to recognize those sea creatures that deserve our praise the most — but never get it.
Plankton is perhaps the most important organism floating around in the ocean. As the basis for countless ecosystem food chains, the tiny creatures don't get the same praise that dolphins attract, but they are just as integral to sustaining life in the sea by providing food for everything from small fishes to blue whales. What's more, the world of plankton is a fascinating — and surprisingly enormous — one:
2. Common octopus
To call this octopus "common" is downright unfair. The species can shoot ink to ward off predators, squeeze into impossibly small spots, regrow its arms, and is known as one of the most intelligent denizens of the ocean. Its instantaneous color-changing abilities should be enough alone to earn this animal a title better than "common":
3. Elephant seal
The elephant seal may not win in the "most photogenic" category, but he can certainly claim to be king of his patch of the sea. The fearsome combatants have been known to roar and host bloody battles in competition for females, and even to attack divers who come a little too close. Male elephant seals also undergo one of the most startling transformations in the animal kingdom from juveniles to adulthood. Remember, this once looked like this:
4. Bobtail squid
Forget kittens and puppies — the bobtail squid should win the award for world's cutest animal. The two-inch cephalopod hosts bioluminescent bacteria inside its body, giving it a startling glow at night.
5. Peacock mantis shrimp
The peacock mantis shrimp's vibrant colors put the real peacock's feathers to shame. Also called the painted mantis shrimp, the crustacean probably could get lost in a Matisse painting. Some have suggested that the shrimp has startling vision abilities to match — a theory that has been mostly debunked in recent years.