Scientists in Hawaii have discovered a snailfish that previously completely unknown. The snailfish, which is being referred to as a sea ghost, was found in the Mariana Trench at an astronomical 8,143 meters under water. Comparatively, that is the equivalent of over 27,000 feet beneath the surface. However, the Mariana Trench is the deepest place in any of the oceans waters, and scientists were not surprised that a creature like this could be lurking down at these astronomical depths.
Typical fish cannot survive at these extreme depths due to the physiology of what is happening under water. It’s conventional knowledge that as you dive deeper into the ocean, the pressure becomes greater and at some point – between 7,000 and 8,000 meters – scientists have roughly determined the cut-off line for traditional fish survival.
The previous fish that was crowned with the fate of “deepest discovered fish” was also a snailfish that was located over 7,700 meters beneath the surface.
Snailfish have the ability to survive at these depths, while traditional fish cannot due to extreme levels of TMAO – or trimethylamine oxide. The chemical keeps proteins from mutating underneath the extreme pressure that these deep waters present. That being said, the video that was captured by the team was impressive due to the structure of the sea ghost.
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It doesn’t look like other snailfish, and actually lacks some of the fundamental qualities that many contend they have. That being said, some have even argued that this creature could not be a snailfish at all – and be an entirely different breed. “We think it is a snailfish, but it’s so weird-looking; it’s up in the air in terms of what it is,” said Alan Jameison of the University of Aberdeen. He went on to point out that “It is unbelievably fragile, and when it swims, it looks like it has wet tissue paper floating behind it. And it has a weird snout – it looks like a cartoon dog snout.”
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The researchers went on to point out that the difficulty the extreme pressure poses stems from the function of nerves and muscles when the intense pressure is applied. Ultimately, this is what causes the bending of proteins, and is a disruption to life at that scale. However, this discovery is interesting because it adds another layer for scientists to begin evaluating and understanding moving forward.
Last month, MBARI found a rare angler fish or Black Seadevil at 2,000 feet below sea level. Ocean is indeed full of strange creatures and humans are yet to discover all of them.