Friday, 21 September, 2018

This Squishy Deep-Sea Fish 'Melts' at the Ocean Surface

Atacama snailfish. Credit Newcastle University Atacama snailfish. Credit Newcastle University
Kristen Harrington | 14 September, 2018, 10:55

One of the new snailfish specimen was even ensnared by the researchers' traps, which are equipped with tasty bait to lure fish and video cameras that acquired over 100 hours of footage of ultra-deep sea life. They are one of the last great frontiers in marine science and also Earth's deepest places. Scientists have called these creatures, "the pink, the blue and the purple Atacama Snailfish".

These creatures live at such "extreme depths" that they rival the world's deepest-living fish - the Mariana snailfish (pseudoliparis swirei), discovered past year inside the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean. Their appearance has little in common with stereotypical ideas about deep sea fish: they don't have big teeth and they look in General negrono.

The underwater creatures, thought to be the world's deepest living fish, resemble translucent tadpoles with a large head and no scales.

"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", Dr. Thomas Linley of Newcastle University explains.

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Creatures live at a depth of eight kilometers. The scientists did manage to remotely trap one specimen using one of the team's deep-sea probes after it followed some prey into its chamber. In addition to being "surprisingly active" as Linley put it, the snailfish are just plain weird, bereft of scales with beady little eyes and gelatinous bodies held together by the huge pressure of the water.

Part of the Liparidae family, these snailfish look distinct from other deep sea creatures, albeit they're no less unusual. The efforts were borne out of a collaboration between 40 scientists from 17 different nations trawling the waters of the Atacama Trench, a cavernous, rocky gash near the South American coast of the Pacific Ocean.

'Without the extreme pressure and cold to support their bodies they are extremely fragile and melt rapidly when brought to the surface'. The team set out to investigate the area with the German research vessel Sonne, and used a baited camera system to search the Atacama abyssal and hadal zones, Newcastle University noted in the video description.

"We don't know what species of munnopsid these are but it's incredible to have caught them in action in their natural habitat - especially the flip they do as they switch from swimming to walking mode", says Dr Linley.

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The Atacama trench or Peru-Chile trench is about 6,000 km long and, in some points, exceeds 8,000 meters in depth.

Researchers gathered more than 100 hours of footage and nearly 11,500 photos of the mysterious region.

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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