The species of snailfish was found at a depth of 8,336 metres (27,350 feet) / Photo – The University of Western Australia
A new species of snailfish was found over 8000 metres (26,000 ft) down.
We simply don’t know what’s in the deep.
Less than 10% of the global ocean has been mapped with modern sonar technology. In the United States, only about 35% of coastal waters have been mapped with modern technology. Only recently have we confirmed the existence (and increasing presence) of species like the giant squid.
Basically, there isn’t much traffic in the deep ocean, so we really have no idea what’s down there.
Thanks to modern science, dee-sea equipment like ROV’s and mini-subs sometimes catch glimpses of new creatures, but it typically doesn’t result in much besides a hazy video and a great conspiracy theory.
Not this time, however.
Scientists used an ROV along deep trenches off the coast of Japan in the northern Pacific Ocean to capture footage of the deepest fish ever recorded. A few days later, they upped the ante by making the deepest ‘catch’ at a nearly identical depth.
The record-breaking discoveries were part of an eight week expedition through the Japan, Izu-Ogasawara and Ryukyu trenches. The three geological formations carry depths of about 8,000, 9,300 and 7,300 metres, respectively.
“The Japanese trenches were incredible places to explore; they are so rich in life, even all the way at the bottom,” said UWA professor and chief scientist of the expedition Alan Jamieson in a press release.
The video footage captured a snailfish from the genus Pseudoliparis swimming at 8,336 meters below the surface. That’s a staggering 27,350 feet. The exact species is still unknown.
Researchers from the University of Western Australia (UWA) and the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology (TUMST) released the video on Monday.
Despite being described as “extremely small,” the snailfish offers a new look at the potential for life in the deep. The discovery occurred along the seabed of the Izu-Ogasawara Trench where little exploration has occurred due to its depth and location.
A few days after the video footage was captured, researchers were then able to make their catch. In what’s known as the Japan Trench, the team used a specially outfitted ROV to capture two snailfish at a depth of 8,022 metres (26,318 feet). The researchers used baited cameras with underwater lights to attract them.
The two fish were later identified as the species Pseudoliparis belyaevi and are the first fish ever caught at a depth greater than 8000 metres. Some mariners may also know snailfish by their more common names — ‘sea snails’ or ‘lumpsuckers.’ The elongated fish are tadpole-like in appearance and usually grow to a maximum length of about 30 centimetres (12 inches).
The snailfish captured did not have scales, a feature common among deep water species who are adapted to withstanding the intense pressure. They were also described as being translucent and having only rudimentary eyes, two other common adaptations to the perpetual darkness. Before the discovery, some scientists believed it may have been impossible for a fish species to survive below 8,200 metres. That theory has now been debunked.
“We have spent over 15 years researching these deep snailfish; there is so much more to them than simply the depth, but the maximum depth they can survive is truly astonishing,” said Jamieson.
“The real take-home message for me, is not necessarily that they are living at 8,336m but rather we have enough information on this environment to have predicted that these trenches would be where the deepest fish would be,” Jamieson added. “In fact until this expedition, no one had ever seen nor collected a single fish from this entire trench.”
Before the recent discovery, the deepest a snailfish had been seen was in the Mariana Trench in 2008 at a depth of 7,703 metres (25,272 feet), a full 158 metres (518 feet) higher than the new record.
Anglers looking to capture a snailfish of their own might be in luck. While many species of the Liparidae family are deep ocean dwellers, other species can be found at shallower depths within range of an offshore fishing vessel. Several different snailfish species are commonly scooped up by commercial fishing ships in the Bering Sea.