October 15th, 2010
11:54 AM ET

New fish species found deep below ocean surface

The ghostly white snailfish was found September 10 in the South Pacific.

Scientists have discovered a new species of fish living almost 4 1/2 miles below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

The ghostly white snailfish was found September 10 in the Peru-Chile trench in the South Pacific by an international team of marine biologists led by Alan Jamieson of the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. The scientists also found cusk-eels and crustaceans living in the trench off the west coast of South America. Those creatures had never before been observed at such depths, where sunlight never penetrates and water pressure is almost 10,000 pounds per square inch.

“Our findings, which revealed diverse and abundant species at depths previously thought to be void of fish, will prompt a rethink into marine populations at extreme depths,” said Jamieson, who led researchers from Japan and New Zealand in the project.

The researchers discovered the creatures during a three-week expedition during which they took more than 6,000 images at depths between 4,500 and 8,000 meters (15,000 to 26,000 feet).

The most recent mission – August 31 to September 20 - was the seventh in three years by a collaborative research project among the University of Aberdeen’s Oceanlab, the University of Tokyo’s Ocean Research Institute and New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research.

Previous expeditions had identified another species of snailfish in deep-sea trenches off Japan and New Zealand.

Scientists found large shrimp-like crustacean scavengers in abundance.

“To test whether these species would be found in all trenches, we repeated our experiments on the other side of the Pacific Ocean off Peru and Chile, some 6,000 miles from our last observations,” Jamieson said. “What we found was that indeed there was another unique species of snailfish living at 7,000 meters — entirely new to science, which had never been caught or seen before.”

Jamieson said scientists also observed cusk-eels in a “feeding frenzy that last 22 hours” and large shrimp-like crustacean scavengers in abundance in the trench.

“It begs the question of why and how they can live so deep in this trench but not in any other,” said Niamh Kilgallen, an expert on the creatures at the New Zealand institute.

“These findings prompt a re-evaluation of the diversity and abundance of life at extreme depths," Jamieson said.

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soundoff (495 Responses)
  1. Lilly

    It never ceases to amaze me....Humans contiunally are amazed when we find life where it ought not to be. In the black depths of the oceans, the very deepest ocean where the pressures are incredibly intense, the driest dessert, the highest mountain, around the mouth of undersea volcanic vents. These are all place humans would never be able to live or even visit without special equipment. Why is it, knowing this, is it so hard to believe that their might be life on every other planet in our own solar system?

    October 15, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • tomasz

      because we haven't seen it yet... even if we find proof, there will still be people that deny it. Probably calling it a hoax

      October 15, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • dudeman

      Lilly. tomas is right. Its not that people wont believe it if we find it. Its that people believe it even though we havent found it.

      October 15, 2010 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  2. mecatfish

    Thats what I call a frankenfish.

    October 15, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. amaka

    The fish appears scary.how can one ever think of eating that!let be poor fish be pls.waoh.

    October 15, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      I think it's funny.

      Myself, I'm the kind of guy who can walk into an aquarium, see a nice pink octopus and think "He looks delicious." A little butter and garlic, and some white wine. Mmmmm.

      October 15, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Dana

    it looks like winged sperm..

    October 15, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Whut?

      Sounds like you got "between the sheets" on the brain.

      October 15, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Fly sperm. Fly free.....

      October 15, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Steven Brown

    These creatures live under such great pressure, that if you brought one to the surface, it would explode.

    October 15, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Awesomeness

      Absolutely agree! That's why they're down there. It's the only place they can survive. No one would be able to bring it up to eat it.

      October 15, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Shivashakti

    I also agree that it is ridiculous that even scientists do not know how to use the phrase "beg the question," which does not mean to literally raise a question. On another note, cool fish.

    October 15, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Language evolves. It's not a bad thing.

      October 15, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ahuizotl

    Now this is interesting. Cusk eels are a more primitive family of fish. Just why they would choose one trench over another could be for a variety of reasons. I hearken to the Celocanth as an example; it is found in certain trenches but not nearby surrounding trenches. It could just be that this trench is their natural living area and has been for a long time, and has simply remained unchanged compared to other deep sea trenches. Of course, it could be another reason all together.

    October 15, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  8. CofY

    There is life out there in space, its just not as hieghly evloved or inteligant like us.

    October 15, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      This is either brilliant or pathetic. So...well done or shame on you!

      October 15, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • CofY


      October 15, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ruby

      How do you know?

      October 15, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Define evolved and intelligent.

      I'll bet that by our definition of each, that there is life existing around stars older than ours that is already evolved beyond Humankind's 'stage' .

      I'd be surprised if this wasn't the case.

      October 15, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • dudeman

      Gotta have more faith in aliens than in God.

      October 15, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. tomasz

    if they are white because light doesn't penetrate at such depths, wouldn't shinning a powerful light at them harm them? (i.e. they have no evolutionary protection for light) – just my thoughts 🙂

    October 15, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Awesomeness

      Your thoughts make perfect sense. Sunlight would probably be too warm for them and eventually "cook" their insides. Most of those creatures deep down below are transparent and the sun would definitely do too much harm if they came in contact with it. Great thoughts!

      October 15, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jo

      Light could hurt their "eyes", if they're still functioning since they hardly use them. But I think it's the UV radiation in sunlight that could harm them more. Most battery operated lights should be UV-free (or have very minute amounts).

      October 16, 2010 at 6:15 am | Report abuse |
  10. Hammy

    Looks like a badass tadpole with wings.

    October 15, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. khai

    At least at 10,000 feet the new species is safe from "Man" trying to hunt them to extinction. Those fish have now idea how lucky they are.

    October 15, 2010 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Don't worry. Man will find a way.

      October 15, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • dudeman

      yooooooo Joe!

      October 15, 2010 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Phil

    When aliens come to Earth and look at humans they will say things like; "Wow, do you think they are edible?", or, "I bet they are good fried up with onions and garlic"!

    October 15, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Awesomeness


      October 15, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Yes, and when they come they probably will. Sort of like how a single man out on the African Plain looks like dinner to the life there.

      LOL. But when the aliens come, man way well learn a bitter lesson.

      October 15, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • RetStateEnvEmployee

      Tastes like chicken?

      October 15, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      We , supposedly, taste really good. I've heard that once a lions has eaten a person it's best to put it down. Once they have the taste of us, they keep coming back for more.

      Sort of like twinkies or a really good burger I guess. LOL.

      October 15, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      To Serve Man.

      October 15, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mikey

    They only exist because MAN hasn't found a way to kill their environment. If they lived in much shallower water they would already be on the endangered species list, or would be extinct like about 98% of all things that have lived on this old planet.

    October 15, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Water

      ya know, like the dinosaurs... That was all my fault personally...
      The dodos did it to themselves though.
      Don't forget like all the little froggys around the world who like die off without ever being discovered because of their like low population...
      And like 😛

      October 15, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • tim

      What an incredibly intelligent observation! I just googled it and you're right, EVERYTHING that lives in a shallow sea is endangered! Humans (which are a natural part of the earth just like all other animals) are ruining everything! I can't tell you how many people on facebook list 'hunt things until they are extinct' as one of their interests. Seriously mikey, don't reproduce.

      October 15, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • dudeman

      If you hate humans so much why dont you jump off a building. Then you will be part of the solution,

      October 15, 2010 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Oh Boy

    Its a dragon!

    October 15, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Water

    Cool fishy. Hoping we'll see something like him orbiting Jupiter.. =-)

    October 15, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      lol what...

      October 15, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Below the lakes of Europa.

      October 15, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
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