Lowly snailfish discovered an “astonishing” 8 km below the sea becomes world’s deepest diver

The translucent juvenile snailfish has been spotted more than eight kilometres under the north Pacific Ocean by Australian and Japanese scientists on a quest to find the deepest swimming fish.

Researchers from Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology and the University of Western Australia found the snailfish at a record-breaking 8,336 metres in the Izu-Ogasaware Trench south of Japan.

They filmed the tiny, but intrepid explorer and caught two more snailfish swimming at a depth of 8,022m during an expedition last summer. But the research was just announced this week.

“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,” UWA Professor Alan Jamieson said in a statement.

Deep-sea diver. Photo: UWA

Research ship DSSV Pressure Drop was on a two-month expedition to explore the Izu-Ogasawara and Ryukyu trenches as part of a 10-year study into the deepest fish populations in the world. Baited cameras were used in the deepest parts of the trenches.

That’s how Jamieson, founder of the Minderoo-UWA Deep Sea Research Centre, and his expedition team were able to record the unknown snailfish species of the genus Pseudoliparis.

Snailfish are now the world’s record-breaking deep-sea swimmers. Photo: UWA

And, a few days later, in the Japan Trench the team collected two fish traps containing snailfish from the Pseudoliparis belyaevi species, from 8,022m under water. These snailfish were the first fish to be caught from depths greater than 8,000m and previously have only ever been seen at a depth of 7,703m.

“The real take-home message for me, is not necessarily that they are living at 8,336m, but rather we have enough information on this environment to have predicted that these trenches would be where the deepest fish would be, in fact until this expedition, no one had ever seen nor collected a single fish from this entire trench,” Jamieson added.

Snailfish were filmed and caught at depths never seen before. Photo: UWA

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