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Team of Australian and Japanese researchers find deepest-swimming fish ever recorded

A team of Australian and Japanese researchers has set the record for the deepest fish ever filmed, after observing a type of snailfish swimming more than five miles underwater.

The snailfish, belonging to a heretofore unknown species of the genus Pseudoliparis, was filmed in August 2022 in the Izu-Ogasawara trench in the Pacific Ocean south of Japan at 27,349 feet below the surface — more than five miles deep.

The observation was part of a two-month expedition by the Minderoo-University of Western Australia Deep Sea Research Centre and researchers from Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology. The expedition used an unmanned deepwater vehicle.

Just days after the deepest-filmed fish was found, scientists recovered two other snailfish, specifically Pseudoliparis belyaevi, from a trap at 26,319 feet underwater, making the pair the deepest fish ever caught, as well as the first fish caught at deeper than 26,246 feet underwater.

“The Japanese trenches were incredible places to explore; they are so rich in life, even all the way at the bottom. … there is so much more to them than simply the depth, but the maximum depth they can survive is truly astonishing,” UWA professor and expedition head Alan Jamieson said in a university release Monday.

Until the expedition, no fish had ever been caught in the depths of the Izu-Ogasawara trench.

The fish found five miles deep were small, juvenile fish — whereas shallower parts of the trenches have more predators, the deeper a fish goes, the fewer other fish there are, making the zone ideal for growing fish to stay safe into adulthood.

Mr. Jamieson told the British newspaper The Guardian that the fish was found near the end of his hypothesized livable range for fish. The previous record-holder for deepest fish, also found by Mr. Jamieson, was recorded at 26,830 feet in the Mariana trench.

Depending on temperature, Mr. Jamieson contends, fish lose the ability to further concentrate the liquid they use to counteract water pressure at around 26,902 to 27,559 feet of depth.

“After all these years of hammering away at this [theory], it seems to be pretty solid. We’ve done close to 250 deployments … the window is narrowed to the point where on this Japanese expedition, we were seeing snailfish every single deployment down to this last one,” Mr. Jamieson said.

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