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Scientists discover ghostly new fish in the depths of the Pacific

14 September 2018

The new species of ghostly "snailfish" were captured on film feeding and interacting in their pitch black secret world - nearly 25,000 feet down in the south Pacific.

An worldwide team consisting of 40 scientists from 17 nations embarked on an expedition to search deep in the ocean with their camera and other necessary equipment. The three new species of snailfish proliferated significantly in that area because they can live unthreatened by predators as it happens in shallow waters. For now, the three fish are known as the Pink, the Blue and the Purple Atacama Snailfish.

"These fish are part of the Liparidae family and do not conform to the preconceived stereotypical image of what a deep-sea fish should look like", England's Newcastle University, which joined the expedition, wrote in a news statement Monday. Dr. Thomas Linley, from Newcastle University, said that there is something about the Snailfish that permits them to readjust to living extremely deep.

If you raise fish to the surface, they will overheat and melt, the researchers note.

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Appearing active and "very well-fed", these snailfish are probably at the top of the local food chain-predator to other invertebrate prey.

Along with these new snail fish, the crew also filmed rare footage of Munnopsids, which are small crustaceans with extremely long legs. So, the hardest objects in the snailfishes' bodies are their teeth and the bones in their inner ears, and the creatures have only minimal structural body parts. The efforts were borne out of a collaboration between 40 scientists from 17 different nations trawling the waters of the Atacama Trench, a cavernous, rocky gash near the South American coast of the Pacific Ocean.

Their squishy, translucent bodies are very well-suited to deep oceans, where the extreme water pressure and cold temperatures keep their forms more or less in line, USA Today explained. The single specimen was in very good condition and, following careful preservation, is now being described by the Newcastle team with the help of colleagues from the United States and the Natural History Museum, London.

"They fall apart at like the molecular level", Linley said.

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They dropped a baited camera system 27 times, in some instances down to depths of more than 8km, capturing more than 100 hours of footage. Then - using paddles on their sides - they propel themselves to do a flip and land on the bottom of the ocean with their long legs spread out like a spider.

The lander - essentially a high-tech trap outfitted with bait, monitors and underwater cameras - would take four hours to fall all the way to the bottom of the ocean, almost five miles deep in some areas of the trench, off the coast of Peru and Chile.

The research will be discussed at the 2018 Challenger Conference which kicks off at the university this week.

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Scientists discover ghostly new fish in the depths of the Pacific