Oceanographers have received the perfect Christmas present this year, though you can’t quite put it in a box. It has been reported that a team of researchers controlling an ocean-probing device known as the Hadal-Lander has discovered the world’s deepest fish, according to the Huffington Post.
Scientists recently spotted a variety of alien-looking animals throughout the ocean floor at some of the deepest points along the Mariana Trench, including supergiant amphipods, transparent fish, and enormous cusk eels. They even found what is now the deepest swimming fish ever recorded at an astounding 8,145 meters.
Jeff Drazen and Patty Fryer, the University of Hawaii researchers who led the 30-day project, believe that the strange-looking fish belongs to a whole new species of snailfish; although, the team wasn’t able to capture any for further study.
“This really deep fish did not look like anything we had seen before, nor does it look like anything we know of,” said research team member Alan Jamieson of the University of Aberdeen, in a statement. “It is unbelievably fragile, with large wing-like fins and a head resembling a cartoon dog.”
Snailfish are known to reside in extreme ocean depths, and the Mariana Trench, which plunges seven miles down into the Pacific Ocean about 3,5000 miles southwest of Hawaii, is the deepest place on earth.
“Many studies have rushed to the bottom of the trench, but from an ecological view that is very limiting. It’s like trying to understand a mountain ecosystem by only looking at its summit,” said Drazen.
The team launched unmanned landers loaded with cameras to film more than 100 hours of footage, which explored the sides of the trench, rather than the central floor. By doing this, they found colonies abundant with unique creatures.
Before this discovery, the species claimed to be the deepest thriving fish were the Pseudoliparis amblystomopsis, or the hadal snailfish. This species held the undisputed record for deepest-living fish at 7703 meters.
Surviving in the extreme weather conditions in the deep sea is a challenge for most animals because it hampers muscles, nerves, and even bends proteins out of shape, which disrupts the working of enzymes necessary to live.
Because snailfish house a compound that helps support their proteins under immense pressure, they are found in deep sectors generally too pressurized for other fish. And according to Jamieson, there is a specific threshold of pressure where fish cannot survive underwater at all— the newly discovered fish are very near that limit.
“You can see its liver through the side of the fish,” Jamieson told National Geographic, describing their fragility. “It’s like tissue paper being dragged through the water.”