Deep below the sea, where light doesn’t reach and the water pressure would crush humans in seconds, mysterious alien-like marine animals live and thrive in an intense environment. We know very little about the deep abyss but new research technology is allowing us to see deeper and learn more.
Now, an international team of scientists from 17 different countries have recently discovered and documented three new species of deep-sea fish living at the bottom of the Atacama Trench. Belonging to the snailfish family, the fish have been temporarily named the pink Atacama snailfish, the blue snailfish, and the purple Atacama snailfish.
“There is something about the snailfish (fish of the family Liparidae) that allows them to adapt to living very deep. Beyond the reach of other fish they are free of competitors and predators,” Dr Thomas Linley, an expert on deep-sea fish from Newcastle University, said in a statement.
“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. Without the extreme pressure and cold to support their bodies they are extremely fragile and melt rapidly when brought to the surface. As the footage clearly shows, there are lots of invertebrate prey down there and the snailfish are the top predator, they seem to be quite active and look very well-fed.”
The discovery was made by using a submersible lander equipped with HD cameras and bait. The journey to get to the bottom of the trench took up to four hours of free fall to the seafloor equating to about 36,000 feet.
In the name of research, the scientists brought back one of the specimens. Since the fish are almost jelly-like, the body of the fish basically turns to goo and resembles a blob due to the low pressure at the surface. With the help of the Natural History Museum in London, the researchers have preserved the snailfish and are now in the process of describing it scientifically.