The sport of fishing requires patience. The sport of avoiding sports fishermen (and women) requires dealing with pressure. In the case of the snailfish found in the Mariana Trench, it requires dealing with the pressure of living at a depth of 26,722 feet (8,145 meters or about 5 miles) – a new record for the deepest fish ever found and a place where it’s not likely to encounter a hook, line or sinker.
According to a recent report in New Scientist, scientists from Aberdeen University and Hawaii University spent 30 days searching the depths of the Mariana Trench east of the Philippines – the deepest spot in the Pacific (or any other ocean) which reaches a maximum known depth of over 6.8 miles. Using Schmidt Ocean Institute’s unmanned research vessel, Falkor, they conducted 92 dives across the trench and took over 105 hours of video.
Their most unusual discovery was the pale snailfish at a depth 500 meters lower than any fish had been found before. The snailfish is about the size of a human hand with a big head, tiny eyes, translucent fins, stringy appendages, an eel-like tail and no scales. According to Dr. Alan Jamieson, from the University of Aberdeen, snailfish have been found in most deep trenches, but he’s never seen one like this before and believes it’s a new species.
Snailfish dine on small crustaceans, mollusks, polychaete worms, and other small invertebrates. The pressure at 5 miles is just under 12,000 psi and the scientists don’t expect to find fish any deeper than that due to that intense pressure. The snailfish survive because they have a high concentration of Trimethylamine N-oxide, a protein stabilizer that counteracts the effects of pressure and gives fish their fishy smell.
For the sake of the record-breaking snailfish, let’s hope it makes them taste bad too.