Scientists have discovered a new species of fish that glides gently through the water on white, translucent wings 5 miles beneath the ocean surface. The newly discovered species is now the world’s deepest known fish recorded at 8,143 m depth. The fish has a novel body form that has not been seen before. It stunned scientists because in other trenches, there is only one fish species at this depth--a snailfish; this fish is really different from any other deep-sea fish that scientists have ever seen.
"We were just blown away when we saw it," said Paul Yancey, a biology professor at Whitman College, Washington who studies how animals adapt to life in the deep sea. "Someone on the ship said it looks like a cross between a puppy, an angel and an eel." The fish was first spotted in November during an international research cruise to the Mariana Trench -- the deepest place on Earth.
The new fish, which has not yet been named, was discovered by accident. In the video above you can see it swimming around a series of tubes that were part of an instrument collecting mud samples from the sea floor. The camera was supposed to be filming the core collecting, when suddenly this ghostly fish swam into view. It is about 10 inches in length, and almost entirely transparent. The dense white part you can see is actually its skull, visible through its skin, Yancey said. It's lengthy, mostly see-through tail is probably made of gelatin.
"It's moving very slowly so it's not clear how well it can swim," he said. "But there has to be some muscle in there somewhere." The Mariana Trench is located in the Western Pacific, just off the coast of Guam. It starts about 3 miles beneath the ocean surface and stretches to an ultimate depth of 6.8 miles. Humans couldn't survive even at the top rim of the trench. At that depth, the proteins and cells in our membranes would collapse. And at the bottom of the trench, the pressure is so immense it would be like having 100 elephants standing on your head.
One way deep sea animals survive even under the weight of all that water is with a molecule called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) that protects their proteins from being crushed. "It's the molecule that makes marine animals like fish and shrimp smell 'fishy,' " said Yancey, "and in deep sea animals there is a lot more of it."
Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald