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Ghostly New Fish Species Discovered in Darkest Ocean Depths Yet [VIDEO]

Dec 19, 2014 01:49 PM EST
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A ghostly new species has set the record for the world's deepest fish, after it and a host of other creatures were recently discovered in the darkest depths of the ocean yet in the Western Pacific's Mariana Trench.

The record-breaker is a previously unknown type of snailfish, filmed 8,143 meters (26,715 feet) below the surface, beating the previous depth record by nearly 500 meters.

But this white translucent fish, with broad wing-like fins and an eel-like tail, wasn't the only bizarre creature found so far beneath the waves. Several other new species of fish were also caught on camera, as well as huge crustaceans called supergiants.

Not to mention that the research team uncovered the deepest rock samples ever collected, some from the earliest volcanic eruptions of the Mariana island arc.

These and the treasure trove of deep-sea animals were discovered during an international expedition to the Mariana Trench, which lies almost 11km down in the Pacific Ocean, according to BBC News.

During the 30-day voyage, the Hadal Ecosystem Studies (HADES) team - aboard the Schmidt Ocean Institute research vessel, Falkor - deployed unmanned landers at depths between 5,000m and 10,600m (16,404ft - 34,777ft).

"Many studies have rushed to the bottom of the trench, but from an ecological view that is very limiting," Dr. Jeff Drazen, co-chief scientist from the University of Hawaii, said in a news release. "It's like trying to understand a mountain ecosystem by only looking at its summit".

Until now, the deepest known fish was the snailfish Pseudoliparis amblystomopsis, recorded in the Japan Trench 7,700 meters down.

But then the HADES team stumbled upon the new ghostly fish in the Mariana Trench, though they can't confirm that it is a new species since it can't be brought back up to the surface for study.

"We think it is a snailfish, but it's so weird-looking; it's up in the air in terms of what it is," said researcher Dr. Alan Jamieson, from Oceanlab at the University of Aberdeen.

A video of the strange-looking snailfish can be seen below:


[Credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute]

According to New Scientist, snailfish are known for their ability to tolerate the extreme conditions found at such deep depths. Most marine life can't handle the intense pressures so far down because it inhibits muscle and nerve function and bends important proteins out of shape.

So how does this ghostly fish do it? These kinds of deep-sea fish have higher levels of a chemical called trimethylamine oxide (TMAO), which helps proteins maintain their shape even amidst crushing pressures. And since fish can't hold enough TMAO in their cells to live below 8,200 meters, this new fish species may just be the permanent record holder.

You can learn more about the HADES expedition on their website.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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