The Mariana snailfish doesn’t look like the sort of monsters you would imagine inhabit the ocean’s extreme depths.
A slender, almost cute-looking fish, the snailfish – discovered in 2017 by scientists from Newcastle University and the University of Washington – can somehow withstand water pressure equivalent to an elephant standing on your thumb.
The Mariana snailfish has now been declared as the deepest in the ocean and named as one of the 10 Most Remarkable New Species of 2017 by the World Register of Marine Species.
The fish gets its name because it lives up to 8,000 metres down in the Mariana Trench, a very deep stretch of sea near the Pacific island of Guam.
The Mariana snailfish is small, translucent and without scales. By living at such extreme depths, it can avoid predators – which are unable to cope with the water pressure – while feasting on a diet of tiny crustaceans and shrimps.
Dr Thom Linley from Newcastle University – who discovered the fish with Dr MacKenzie Gerringer from the University of Washington – said, “I try to stay objective, but after watching tens of hours of these animals, I have to say it’s a very cute fish with a lot of personality.”
“They are a lot tougher than they look. We need to use thick stainless steel housings and sapphire glass to film an animal that happily shrugs off that enormous pressure.”
“Snail fishes have adapted to go deeper than other fish and can live in the deepest trenches. At these depths, they are free of predators.”
“There are lots of invertebrate prey and the snailfish are the top predator, which means they are quite active and appear to be very well fed.”
Snailfish can be found at a variety of depths and in very deep water tend to cluster in groups. They use suction from their mouths to gulp their prey.
The Mariana snailfish has starred on the BBC programme Blue Planet II. Footage of the creatures was captured using equipment designed and developed by Newcastle University’s Dr Alan Jamieson.
Between 2014 and 2017, scientists discovered 37 new deep-sea species, living at between 6,900 and 8,000 metres down.
Other creatures that made the 10 Most Remarkable New Species of 2017 list include the Harry Potter Hero Crab, Bob Marley’s Intertidal Spider, and the Invasive Spiderman Worm Snail.
(Featured image courtesy of Wikipedia Creative Commons)