The deepest living fish ever recorded have been caught — and caught on camera — miles beneath the surface of the north Pacific Ocean.
In total darkness except for a light cast onto the bottom of a deep-sea trench by researchers using an autonomous deep-ocean vessel, the unknown snailfish species was recorded at a bone-crushing depth of 27,349 feet (8,336 meters).
The snailfish — of the genus Pseudoliparis, which resemble a ghoulishly large tadpole — was a small juvenile that has greater capabilities of living at such depths, the opposite of other deep-sea fish. They were found in the Izu-Ogasawara Trench south of Japan during a two-month voyage by a joint Australian-Japanese scientific expedition.
The record-breaking discovery was part of a decadelong study into the world’s deepest fish populations that was carried out by the University of Western Australia and the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology.
“We have spent over 15 years researching these deep snailfish; there is so much more to them than simply the depth, but the maximum depth they can survive is truly astonishing,” Alan Jamieson, the director of the Minderoo-UWA Deep Sea Research Centre, said in a statement Monday.
Days after the fish were filmed, the team collected two snailfish (Pseudoliparis belyaevi) in traps set 26,319 feet (8,022 meters) deep in the Izu-Ogasawara Trench.
In remarkable footage released Sunday, a number of translucent, scaleless fish with winglike fins and eel-like tails can be seen swimming in a black abyss, illuminated by a spotlight cast from a baited camera. It wasn’t immediately clear how big the fish were.
“In other trenches such as the Mariana Trench, we were finding them at increasingly deeper depths just creeping over that 8,000m mark in fewer and fewer numbers, but around Japan they are really quite abundant,” Jamieson said.
These snailfish were the first fish to be collected from depths greater than 26,247 feet (8,000 meters), the statement said. In previous expeditions, the snailfish has only ever been seen at a depth of 25,272 feet (7,703 meters) in 2008, it added.
The expedition began last September to explore the deep trenches around Japan in the north Pacific Ocean.
The discovery of the mysterious deep-sea creature breaks the record previously held by snailfish discovered in the Mariana Trench, the planet’s deepest point in the Pacific Ocean: One in 2017 of 26,831 feet (8,178 meters), beating the previous record by over 518 feet, and another in 2014 of a snailfish filmed at a depth of 26,716 feet (8,143 meters) by an expedition team led by University of Hawaii marine scientists.
“We tell people from the very early ages, as young as two or three, that the deep sea is a horrible scary place that you shouldn’t go and that grows with you with time,” Jamieson told Reuters.
“We don’t appreciate the fact that it (the deep sea) is fundamentally most of planet Earth and resources should be put into understanding and how to work out how we are affecting it and how it works,” he added.