An international group of researchers discovered three new species of fish in the Atacama Trench of Pacific Ocean
According to a report by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in 2017, 80% of Earth’s oceans are still unmapped and unexplored and around two-thirds of the creatures that live in these waters have yet to be discovered. Now, a team of 40 scientists from 17 countries discovered three new species of fish in the Atacama Trench in the Pacific Ocean. The expedition led by Newcastle University scanned around 25,000 feet below the surface to capture footage of three new species of snailfish. The newly found species have been temporarily named as pink, blue, and purple Atacama snailfish respectively.
Snailfish belong to the family Liparidae and can adapt deep sea environment. With the lack of competitors and predators in such deep area, the snailfish are the top predator. However, studying deep water creatures is a challenge as bringing them to a lab is nearly impossible. Species such as snailfish that have evolved to live in dark and highly pressurized environment of the ocean floor, cannot survive the trip upward the sea level. The gelatinous structure of such species enables perfect adaption to survive at extreme pressure. Moreover, the bones in the inner ear of snailfish are the only hardest structures in their bodies. In absence of extreme pressure and cold that is required for snailfish’s body, the species is extremely fragile and can melt rapidly when brought to the surface. Therefore, the research is limited to live observation or study of non-living specimens.
The Newcastle expedition that began in 2013 has deployed around 250 deep water landers that are laced with high-definition cameras. The landers are dropped from a boat and reach the bottom after free-fall of around four hours. The team sends an acoustic signal down to the bottom after 12 or 24 hours that releases weights so that flotation devices can bring the lander and its traps back. The researchers have recorded over 100 hours of video and taken 11,468 photographs. The article was published in the journal Science on September 10, 2018.