Imagine this scenario: it’s a beautiful, sunny day and you find yourself wading through waves in the ocean. You’re laughing and splashing, having the time of your life. It seems perfect. But, it’s about to go horribly wrong. No, you aren’t about the be attacked by something large, lurking from below and, luckily, nobody is going to have to pee on a jelly fish sting today. But you’re probably going to swallow at least one briny mouthful of seawater. “That doesn’t sound too bad,” you think, but there’s a reason your mom told you not to drink ocean water and it has way less to do with salt than you thought. It’s because the ocean is full of tiny, terrifying monsters and if you take even the slightest sip you’ll be drinking them all.
Don’t believe it? Check out the photograph below. Not all sea monsters look like Nessie or the strange “creature” that washed on Muriwai Beach near Auckland, New Zealand. Some are microscopic, but no less scary:
The photo is a single drop of ocean water magnified 25 times. It was taken by photographer David Littschwager and contains a whole ecosystem’s worth of organisms, including worms, zooplankton, fish eggs, crab larva, bacteria, and chaetognaths — a form of predatory plankton that wields a neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin to paralyze its prey.
‘Jaws’ made us afraid to go into the water for fear of being eaten by a giant, shark. But, maybe we should have been more scared of mistakenly taking a gulp of ocean water. It seems a hell of a lot scarier than a great white.