Scientists said they are stunned by what was revealed in an expedition filmed nearly five miles below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.
“It’s incredible. These videos vastly exceed all our expectations from this research. We thought the deepest fishes would be motionless, solitary, fragile individuals eking out an existence in a food-sparse environment,” said Professor Monty Priede, director of University of Aberdeen’s Oceanlab. “But these fish aren’t loners. The images show groups that are sociable and active – possibly even families – yet living in one of the most extreme environments on Earth.”
“All we’ve seen before of life at this depth have been shriveled specimens in museums,” he added. “Now we have an impression of how they move and what they do. Having seen them moving so fast, snailfish seems a complete misnomer.”
Snailfish as a group are very diverse in their habits, with some being found in rock pools, but the hadal snailfish does not occur above 6,000 meters (19,685 feet). It is actually named after this particular region of the ocean depths. The water pressure here is tremendous – equivalent to 1,600 elephants piled up on top of the roof of a small car. It is also totally dark and very cold, but these snailfish are clearly thriving in this environment. They feed on the myriad of tiny shrimp-like creatures which scavenge on the carcasses of fish and other creatures that have sunk down to these depths.
“We got some absolutely amazing footage from 7,700 meters,” said project leader Dr. Alan Jamieson of the University of Aberdeen’s Oceanlab. “More fish than we or anyone in the world would ever have thought possible at these depths.”
Photo and video courtesy of Natural Environment Research Council and University of Aberdeen
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