The little fish that just broke the world record for deepest living fish ever recorded is surprisingly normal looking, but tough as a tank.
When we think of deep, deep-sea creatures, we normally think of bug-eyed beasts with long, pointy teeth, luminescent bulbs on wiggly antennae-like appendages and translucent bodies with internal organs pulsing. In short, we think of science-fiction-like monsters.
But the little fish that just broke the world record for deepest living fish ever recorded looks different. It kind of looks like a pretty little white tadpole with a satisfied smile on its face.
Kairei, the Japanese research vessel from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, went out and released an underwater lander over the super-deep Mariana Trench. They rigged the lander with a bait sack and lowered it to two accurately recorded depths: 24,600 feet (7,498 meters) and 26,830 feet (8,178 meters).
They turned the lights and video cameras on and waited. At the shallower depth, several amphipods and snailfish showed up after a few hours to feed on the bait. After more than 17 hours at the deeper depth, and much to the surprise and delight of the researchers, a single white snailfish appeared.
The tiny snailfish at this recorded depth became the deepest living fish ever sighted.
"Deep-sea organisms and their ecosystems have attracted great scientific interest; however, extremely high pressure in deep-sea trenches has prevented sampling as well as video recordings," the JAMSTEC team said. "We will now continue investigations of hadal organisms, attempting to collect samples for analyses to better understand the population density of the organisms and the food chain at water depths below 8,000 meters."
Here is video footage taken at the two depths. The first half at 7,498 meters shows multiple snailfish, and the second half footage at 8,178 meters shows a single snailfish and an amphipod.
Fish reportedly need to produce a substance known as osmolyte to survive the enormous pressures generated at extreme depths. Researchers believe that below a certain depth (8,200 meters), fish are unable to produce it.
The little snailfish sighting beats the old record by more than 85 feet (26 meters) for deepest fish, set in 2014.
As technology improves, we may even be able to go to new depths in deep sea areas and record the unknown. But we don't currently have the ability to send landers that deep. In 2014, researchers sent a probe about six miles deep and it crumpled like an aluminum soda can.
But who knows, the little snailfish might be able to outperform even our toughest machinery.
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