Mystery fish sets new record for deepest-swimming marine life

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Using unmanned ocean landers at depths ranging from 5,000m to 10,600m, researchers at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland have successfully filmed and discovered a gelatinous-looking mystery fish that is the deepest-swimming marine life ever recorded.

We think it is a snailfish, but it’s so weird-looking; it’s up in the air in terms of what it is. It is unbelievably fragile, and when it swims, it looks like it has wet tissue paper floating behind it. And it has a weird snout – it looks like a cartoon dog snout.Dr. Alan Jamieson

The creature was caught at a depth of 8,145m flaring its fins and wending its way past a swarm of greedy amphipods munching on bait fixed at the end of the marine lander.

snailfish copy

The discovery of this “new species” of fish was the result of a 30-day international expedition using the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s research vessel, Falkor. This voyage was specifically designed to explore the depths of the Mariana Trench, which is considered to be the “deepest part of the world’s oceans.” Located in the western Pacific Ocean, the Mariana Trench reaches a maximum-known depth of 10.994 km (10,994 ± 40 m).

This voyage was part of a larger mission to learn more about the ecology of the Mariana Trench by exploring the undersea canyon’s steep walls. According to the BBC News, the research team deployed several landers and used the UK’s deepest driving vehicle to capture more than “100 hours of deep-sea footage.”

Scientists also collected and brought to the surface rocks covered in volcanic glass, whose characteristics suggest the existence of volcanic activity at depths previously unknown.

The rock we picked up – it turns out this thing is 100 million years younger than the Pacific Plate. It means that the plate that’s being subducted beneath the Challenger Deep (the lowest point of the trench) is 100 million years or more younger than the Pacific Plate. Most volcanologists would say that you can’t get explosive volcanism much deeper than a couple of km – but we found these rocks 5,000m down.Prof. Patricia Fryer, from the University of Hawaii

Another fascinating discovery is a new species of “supergiant” amphipods that can reach up to 30cm in length (normal sized amphipods are usually 2-3cm long). “We’ve got more than 20 hours of footage of them, and we’re learning the way they swim, the way they feed and the way they fend off predators, says Dr Alan Jamieson from Oceanlab at the University of Aberdeen,”They clamp down on the bait, and bore their head into it and put their spiky tail in the air like a thorn bush. Anything that goes for it gets stabbed in the nose.”

supergiantamphipod

With most of the ocean floor largely unexplored, more discoveries of this nature is expected to increase and yield a slew of unexpected surprises.

About Author

Kristian strives to enlighten and entertain readers. In addition to his teaching and editorial responsibilities, he is working on a science-fiction novel that promises not to include exoskeleton suits and anemic aliens floating in mysterious vats of green-tinted goop.

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