Saturday, 20 July, 2019

Newcastle University discover new species from the extreme depths of the Pacific

The fish — temporarily named the pink blue and purple Atacama snailfish — were found in the Atacama Trench by Newcastle University researchers New species of deep-sea fish melts if brought up to the surface
Sandy Nunez | 14 September, 2018, 10:59

With a fish carcass to lure them out, the researchers were able to observe rare deep water creatures in their natural habitat, including three new species.

The pink, the blue and the purple Atacama Snailfish, as they've been temporarily named, were captured on camera slowly swimming around the ocean floor and chowing down on a tasty fish carcass. People expect that deepest fish would be lonely and motionless. Instead of enormous teeth and imperiled frame, the fish that maneuver in the deepest path of the ocean are small, translucent, stripped of scales and are highly proficient of residing where other sea animals can not.

One of the researchers, Dr Thomas Linley from Newcastle University, said that the snailfish family is particularly suited to living in the dark depths of the ocean. During their exploration, they discovered the new fish species, which is believed to be a type of a snailfish, roughly five miles below the surface.

Appearing active and "very well-fed", these snailfish are probably at the top of the local food chain-predator to other invertebrate prey.

Amazingly, however, researchers were able to trap one of these new fish. But the newly discovered snailfish are perfectly content to swim these hellish waters, due in part to their gelatinous bodies, which are nearly entirely free of bones, save for the little structures in their inner ears that help with balance.

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Joining an expedition to the Atacama Trench, the Newcastle University scientists helped uncover information about life in one of the deepest places on the planet. "Without the extreme pressure and cold to support their bodies, they are extremely fragile and melt rapidly when brought to the surface", said Thomas Linley, one of the researchers. Indeed, sea creatures discovered in the deepest reaches of the ocean typically have distinctive characteristics that come with adapting to living under extreme pressure, in freezing temperatures and out of sunlight's reach.

It can take four hours for a trap to sink to the bottom.

It is said that it is almost five miles deep in some of the areas of the Atacama Trench which is present off the coast of the Peru and Chile. The single specimen was in very good condition and, following careful preservation, is now being described by the Newcastle team with the help of colleagues from the United States and the Natural History Museum, London.

The Newcastle University-led expedition, which involved deploying two deep sea "landers" to capture more than 100 hours of video footage, revealed a vibrant trench-dwelling ecosystem that includes shrimp-like amphipods and long-legged isopods.

The research will be discussed at the 2018 Challenger Conference which kicks off at the university this week. These crustaceans have small bodies, extraordinarily long legs and swim back and down, propelling themselves with paddles on their ventral side - their "belly" - before straightening on the seabed and unfurling their long legs to walk like a spider.