Transparent, without scales or ridges… three new species of snailfish have been identified in the great depths of the Atacama trench, announced the scientists behind the discovery off the coast of Chile.
These strange beings were spotted at the beginning of the month in the Atacama pit, about 7500 m underwater, by the cameras of an international team of researchers, surprised to find such a quantity in such an inhospitable place . “These things are right on the limit of what all fish can take so you might expect at that depth you’d maybe be lucky to see one or two eking out an existence,” says Alan Jamieson, researcher in marine ecology at Newcastle University. “But there’s a whole heap of them sitting there.”
Temporarily baptized the pink, blue and purple Atacama snailfish, these creatures 20-25 cm long are translucent and without skeleton, characteristics allowing it to withstand the cold water (barely 2 °C) and the extreme pressure ( “It’s the equivalent of having an 800kg weight placed on your little finger,” notes Jamieson.
“The hardest part of their constitution is the bones of their inner ear and their teeth,” says Thomas Linley, a researcher at the same university, also a member of the expedition.
In fact, this fish, formed almost entirely of gelatinous matter, would die if there was not this extreme pressure keeping it in one piece! “Their body is very fragile and melts quickly if it is brought to the surface,” says Linley.
Some 300 varieties of slugfish have already been identified, able to adapt to extreme conditions of survival, says his colleague Alan Jamieson.