October 8, 2008

Deepest-Living Fish ‘Surprisingly Social’


SCOTTISH scientists have filmed the world's deepest iving fish for the first time.

They sent cameras deeper than ever before, nearly five miles (7.7km) beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean into one of the world's deepest ocean trenches, and found groups of highly sociable snailfish swarming over their bait.

Project leader Dr Alan Jamieson, of Aberdeen University's Oceanlab, said: "We got some absolutely amazing footage from 7700 metres. [Of] more fish than we or anyone in the world would ever have thought possible at these depths.

Speaking from the Japanese research ship the HakuhoMaru, Professor Monty Priede, director of Oceanlab, added: "It's incredible. These videos vastly exceed all our expectations from this research. We thought the deepest fishes would be motionless, solitary, fragile individuals eking out an existence in a food- sparse environment.

"But these fish aren't loners. The images show groups that are sociable and active, possibly even families, feeding on little shrimp, yet living in one of the most extreme environments on Earth.

"All we've seen before of life at this depth have been shrivelled specimens in museums. Now we have an impression of how they move and what they do. Having seen them moving so fast, snailfish seems a complete misnomer, " he added.

Although some species of snailfish live in shallow water and even rock pools, the hadal snailfish are found exclu sively below 6000 metres. Here they have to deal with total darkness, near freezing temperatures and immense water pressure - 8000 tonnes per square metre, equivalent to that of 1600 elephants standing on the roof of a Mini car.

They feed on the thousands of tiny shrimp-like creatures that scavenge the carcasses of dead fish, and detritus reaching the ocean floor.

Originally published by Newsquest Media Group.

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