Three New Fish Species Discovered in Extreme Ocean Depths

Atacama snailfish. Credit Newcastle University

Atacama snailfish. Credit Newcastle University

The three new species of snailfish proliferated significantly in that area because they can live unthreatened by predators as it happens in shallow waters.

Part of the Liparidae family, the fish are unusual in appearance compared to the typical idea of a deep-sea fish. Their bodies are built to handle the extreme pressure found in the deepest parts of the ocean, said scientists.

A massive worldwide team consisting of 40 scientists launched an expedition to one of the deepest places on Earth. "They seem to be quite active and look very well-fed".

The Atacama name comes from the Atacama Trench, a slash in the floor of the ocean that is almost 6,000km long and more than 8,000m deep in some areas. Scientists filmed the fish in their natural environment as part of an worldwide expedition to remotely explore the Atacama Trench, off the coast of Peru, and the discovery will be presented at the ongoing Challenger Conference at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom.

Snailfish live nearly 8,000 meters deep and their bodies are so fragile that they melt when they are caught. "As a change of wide enamel and a menacing frame, the fishes that creep within the deepest substances of the ocean are small, translucent, bereft of scales - and highly adept at residing where few other organisms can".

The pink, blue, and purple fish, which will eventually be described in scientific papers and hopefully given some formal names (I propose Tynamo), are part of the Liparidae family, which includes many other deep ocean dwellers around the world.

The fish are said to have a gelatinous structure that is perfectly adapted to the extreme pressure at the bottom of the trench. The depths the snailfish live at puts them beyond the reach of other fish and free from other competitors for food and predators. That specimen didn't survive the trip to the surface, but researchers have preserved its remains and, according the statement, it's in "very good condition" for study. Delivering on science's ultimate goal of making us fear the abyss, the University of Newcastle also captured rare footage of spider-like creatures, known as Munnopsids, which are roughly the size of an adult hand.

The lander which is said to be the high tech trap that can be outfitted with the bait, underwater as well as monitors cameras that can take about four hours to fall all the way from the bottom of the ocean. Either 12 or 24 hours later, the team sends an acoustic signal down that releases weights so that flotation devices can bring the lander and its traps back.

The first assessments of this discovery, as well as various images of the expedition, have been presented at the 2018 Challenger Conference held on 10-14 September at the University of Newcastle (United Kingdom).

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