Deep Sea Attack: Shrimp Rips Fish From Larger Fish's Stomach in Stunning Video

A shrimp attacks and eats a dragonfish in a surprising find, chronicled on video by researchers aboard the NOAA Okeanos Explorer. NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Discovering the Deep: Exploring Remote Pacific MPAs

Deep sea shrimp typically feed on detritus and decaying organic matter. However, a team of scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently saw an extremely unusual—and somewhat unsettling—sight that taught them more about shrimp behavior.

While surveying an underwater mountain called Ufiata seamount, part of the Tokelau Seamount Chain near American Samoa, the researchers spied a caridean shrimp tangling with a little creature called a dragonfish. The shrimp gained the upper hand and began literally picking the fish apart.

"I've never seen a shrimp consume a fish like this before, picking and picking, and the fish is still alive," said a biologist aboard the ship, the NOAA Okeanos Explorer, in the video. Next, the shrimp reached into its prey's stomach and plucked out a small fish that the dragonfish had consumed.

"It was incredible to watch the feeding activity, and the scientists wondered how this shrimp was able to capture the fish, as deep-sea shrimps are often scavengers," the scientists wrote in the Okeanos Explorer's mission log.

Members of the expedition addressed the video May 1 in a Reddit AMA, saying that the "shrimp-fish battle ranks pretty high on the unsettling meter for a lot folks," which one Redditor described as "the single most metal thing I've ever seen." The scientists added that they have become accustomed to such surprises, since "we know so little about the deep ocean, we are truly exploring and we don't know what we will find."

The video, taken from the seafloor within a marine protected area, also underscores the importance of continuing to protect and preserve these little-known areas, the scientists wrote.