TRUSTEES OF THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM, LONDON AND THE IMAGING AND ANALYSIS CENTRE, NHM
Showing just how unknown the ocean remains, three new species of fish have been discovered in the depths of the Pacific Ocean. Forty scientists from 17 different nations went looking deep in the Atacama Trench and came back with snailfish species never seen before.
Right now they’re being named after their colors—pink, blue, and purple— but as part of the Liparidae family, they’ll be given scientific names soon enough in academic papers.
Looking over 4 and a half miles (7,500 meters) below the surface, the scientists found fish that do not adhere to any preconceived notions of what deep sea fish should look like. They’re small, translucent and don’t have any scales.
“There is something about the snailfish that allows them to adapt to living very deep, says Thomas Linley, from Newcastle University, who participated in the study. “Beyond the reach of other fish they are free of competitors and predators.”
“As the footage clearly shows, there are lots of invertebrate prey down there and the snailfish are the top predator, they seem to be quite active and look very well-fed,” Linley says.
“Their gelatinous structure means they are perfectly adapted to living at extreme pressure and in fact the hardest structures in their bodies are the bones in their inner ear which give them balance and their teeth. Without the extreme pressure and cold to support their bodies they are extremely fragile and melt rapidly when brought to the surface.”
Finding fish in the Atacama Trench, 3728 miles (6000 km) long and and over 5 miles (8000 m) deep along the coast of Peru and Chile, is no easy task. The team used two landers equipped with HD cameras and traps. These landers were dropped off the side of a boat and left to free-fall to the ocean floor, a process which took around four hours.
Giving the landers 12 to 24 hours to collect samples, the scientists than triggered an acoustic signal to the lander which released its weights. Floating up to the surface, the lander was able to catch fish specimens and capture video footage of life at the bottom of the ocean.
But even at that depth, the fish still face human interference in their lives (beyond the scientific study). The snailfish diet includes of amphipods, tiny crustaceans which are known to hold microplastics. Microplastics are even tinier pieces of plastic which scientists have shown are infiltrating every level of the ocean.
“They would not be spared any impact we have on a global scale,” Linley tells Earther.
Previously published by: Popular Mechanics USA