Video shows snailfish swimming deeper than any other creature, at 8,000m beneath Pacific

The fish has large wing-like fins and a head resembling a cartoon dog, according to a scientist

Kashmira Gander
Saturday 20 December 2014 00:03 GMT
The deepest fish filmed as scientists discovered several new species on their trip to the Mariana Trench in the Pacific.
The deepest fish filmed as scientists discovered several new species on their trip to the Mariana Trench in the Pacific.

The modest-sounding snailfish has broken all previous records by swimming deeper than any other creature.

Scientists filmed the snail fish navigating the Pacific Ocean at staggering depths of 8,145m (26,700ft).

During a 30-dady expedition around the Mariana Trench in the Pacific, an international team of marine biologists, geologists, microbiologists and geneticists also discovered several new species, and filmed the first known footage of a living “supergiant” amphipod.

Led by the University of Hawaii, the team included scientists from the University of Aberdeen, who recorded their footage using the Hadal-Lander – believed to be the UK’s deepest diving vehicle.

The Schmidt Ocean Institute's Research Vessel Falkor, which was defined and built entirely in Aberdeenshire, successfully reached the bottom of the Sirena deep at 10,545m.

Their discovery comes after they discovered a new species of snailfish living between 6,000 and 8,000 metres (20,000ft and 26,000ft), itself a depth record, and were excited to find a fish even deeper down.

Alan Jamieson, from the University of Aberdeen, said: “This really deep fish did not look like anything we had seen before, nor does it look like anything we know of.

"It is unbelievably fragile, with large wing-like fins and a head resembling a cartoon dog."

Team members were also excited to capture footage the extremely rare “supergiant” amphipod, which was first discovered in traps off the coast of New Zealand in 2012.

The video shows supergiants swimming, feeding, and fending off potential predators with their large bodies size and protective tails.

Dr Jamieson said: "Knowing these creatures exist is one thing, but to watch them alive in their natural habitat and interacting with other species is truly amazing, we have learnt a great deal."

During the Hadal Ecosystem Studies expedition, the team deployed deep-sampling equipment some 92 times across the entire depth range of the trench, from 5,000 metres to 10,600 metres (16,400ft to 34,700ft). A staggering 105 hours of video was recorded in the process which captured many other species of fish, and set new depth records for three other fish families.

At the Mariana Trench, the experts aimed to characterise the environments, animals, ecological and geological processes of the deepest area of the world's ocean but also sampled a broad spectrum of environments rather than focusing on the deepest point.

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

The University of Aberdeen said that from their perspective the expedition, their 14th to the deep trenches, had been a major success.

Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of the Schmidt Ocean Institute, was delighted with the success of the expedition.

She said: “Rarely, do we get a full perspective of the ocean's unique deep environments.

"The questions that the scientists will be able to answer following this cruise will pave the way for a better understanding of the deep sea, which is not exempt from human impact."

Additional reporting by Press Association

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