Meet the Mariana snailfish, the deepest living fish in the oceans (PHOTO, VIDEO)
Scientists trying to name a strange deep-sea fish have taken inspiration from its bizarre physical traits and bone-crushing home environment.
Researchers from the University of Washington collected 36 samples of the fish during two separate expeditions in 2014 and 2017, when free-falling baited traps were dropped almost 8,000 meters into the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the world’s oceans. Dubbed Pseudoliparis Swirei, scientists have opted to call the creature the slightly more pronounceable ‘Mariana snailfish’, after the underwater trench in which it lives.
The name Pseudoliparis Swirei is a nod to Officer Herbert Swire, a navigator aboard the HMS Challenger, the Royal Navy ship that discovered the Mariana Trench near Guam in 1875.
“This is the deepest fish that’s been collected from the ocean floor, and we’re very excited to have an official name,” said Mackenzie Gerringer, a researcher at the University of Washington.
His team’s study, published in the journal Zootaxa, highlights the physical traits of the 11cm-long fish, including its broad mouth and sharp canines. The team’s fiber glass and aluminium traps took up to four hours to reach the desired depth in the trench, where pressure is exerted 1,000 times stronger than at sea level. The lack of light at such a low depth rendered the fish’s skin thin and almost transparent.
“They don’t look very robust or strong for living in such an extreme environment, but they are extremely successful,” Gerringer added.
The study’s co-author, Thomas Linley of Newcastle University, believes that evolving in such a harsh environment allowed the snailfish to thrive.
“Here they are free of predators, and the funnel shape of the trench means there’s much more food. There are lots of invertebrate prey and the snailfish are the top predator. They are active and look very well-fed,” he said.
Footage from the 2014 expedition at the trench, involving the vessel R/V Falkor, shows the Mariana snailfish feeding from the ocean floor.