New fish species discovered from depths of Mariana Trench

Rodiano Bonacci
Novembre 29, 2017

Thriving at 26,200 feet below sea level, the small, slimy and translucent fish have somehow adapted to one of the harshest places in the ocean. Following skeletal and DNA analysis, the researchers determined they were dealing with a new species, which they named in honor of Herbert Swire, an officer on the HMS Challenger expedition in the late 1800s that first discovered the Mariana Trench.

An worldwide research team discovered a new species of fish thriving at a depth of 8,000 meters (26,200 feet) along the Mariana Trench near Guam. The new species was described in a paper published in the journal Zootaxa.

"This is the deepest fish that's been collected from the ocean floor, and we're very excited to have an official name", says Mackenzie Gerringer, lead author of the study.

"They don't look very robust or strong for living in such an extreme environment, but they are extremely successful", Gerringer added.

The fish was discovered during research trips in 2014 and 2017, when the team dropped traps down to the bottom of the trench to snap pictures, shoot video and capture specimens. They live in clusters and feed on tiny crustaceans and shrimps. According to the release, little is known about how these fish can live under intense water pressure, which can be compared to that of an elephant standing on your thumb.

They were found dominant in parts of the Mariana Trench, the deepest stretch of ocean in the world that is located in the western Pacific Ocean. By studying the structure of the creatures' skeletons and tissues, they were able to determine that they were indeed a new species.

In December 2014 a new record was set for the deepest fish ever seen in the world, at an incredible depth of 26,722ft (8,145 metres).

The Mariana snailfish is the deepest known fish in the sea. "Here they are free of predators, and the funnel shape of the trench means there's much more food", study co-author Thomas Linley of Newcastle University said.

'There are lots of invertebrate prey and the snailfish are the top predator. "They are active and look very well-fed", he said.

A handful of researchers have explored the Mariana Trench, but few comprehensive surveys of the trench and its inhabitants have been completed because of its depth and location, Gerringer explained. These research trips, conducted while Gerringer completed her doctorate at University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, involved dropping traps with cameras down to the bottom of the trench.

'There are a lot of surprises waiting at those depths. "It's unbelievable to see what lives there. We think of it as a harsh environment because it's extreme for us, but there's a whole group of organisms that are very happy down there".

The new species is small and transparent.

A researcher at the University of Washington's Friday Harbor Laboratories played a key role in Pseudoliparis swirei's discovery.

Scientists trying to name a odd deep-sea fish have taken inspiration from its weird physical traits and bone-crushing home environment.

In addition to Gerringer and Linley, the authors of "Pseudoliparis Swirei sp. November: A Newly-Discovered Hadal Snailfish (Scorpaeniformes: Liparidae) from the Mariana Trench" include Alan Jamieson, Erica Goetze and Jeffrey Drazen.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, Schmidt Ocean Institute, and the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland.

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