Scientists in Australia traveled to new depths to witness a world never previously seen with human eyes. Then, alien fish were discovered 20,000 leagues under the sea.
Researchers from Australia went deeper than scuba divers and submarines could. Cameras descended to 3.6 miles below the surface to explore the chilly sea floor under great pressure.
And watch what they discovered…
“There are wonderful things that live in the Twilight Zone with bioluminescence, lights and big fangs,” Dianne Bray, Senior Collections Manager at the Museums Victoria Research Institute in Australia, told FOX Weather. “The deep sea is our least known environment, and we captured just a tiny amount.”
The “Twilight Zone” is situated on gigantic, ancient volcanoes that have become seamounts and are 40 to 120 million years old. The largest mountains in Australia can be 42 miles across, above or below sea, however the only surface evidence of them is the tiny, tippy-top Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands. The area was recognized as one of Australia’s newest Marine Parks in March.
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“And the seamounts get studded with these enormous monsters, and yet we know nothing about them,” explained Tim O’Hara, chief scientist of the mission, before his 35-day journey to the unknown. “No scientific expedition has been there to look at the biology or the fauna down there. So we’ll be the first.”
They welcomed the hitherto unseen blind eel. It has skin that is loose, transparent, and gelatinous.
“They’re also livebearers. So the females give birth to live young,” Bray marveled at the oddity in fish. “So they really don’t have any dispersal mechanisms. They don’t have larvae that get carried around in the current.”
The blind eel was only one of hundreds of specimens brought back to the Institute by O’Hara and his crew.
“We expect maybe a third of all the animals that will bring back will be new species,” said O’Hara.
The tripod fish is Bray’s favorite discovery.
“Those amazing deep-sea fishes that stand high up off the seafloor on their long, thin fin rays and face into the current to feed,” said Bray.
“They’re not only just hermaphrodites, they’re simultaneous hermaphrodites. So they have a functional ovotestis, which is a pretty interesting reproductive strategy and a great one for life in the deep sea where animals are rare,” continued Bray. “So maybe they only have to meet one other fish to mate.”
The fish have fully developed ovaries and testes, as well as sperm. They cannot inseminate themselves, but they are able inseminate any other tripod fish.
The area’s distinct oceanography gave rise to species with highly specific characteristics.
“The Cocos Keeling Islands area is a really interesting area because it receives currents from Africa, from the western Indian Ocean and also from the Pacific,” Bray explained. “We were trying to work out what kinds of animals live there that are unique to this region and what animals are fairly widespread.”
Consider the Sloan’s Viperfish, which has enormous fangs that are noticeable even when its mouth is shut. They have rows of light organs, as well as one at the tip of their long top fin, which they use to lure prey.
The Slender Snipe Eel can be found amongst pumice stones that are presumably from Krakatoa’s 1883 eruption in Indonesia. It has a lengthy tail that can grow to be over 3 feet long. However, the tail is akin to a thread. The whole creature weighs less than 2 ounces.
When out of water, the poison-tipped spines of the pancake sea urchin flatten out like a pancake.
In order to better understand the world that humans and other creatures share as well as how to cohabit with nature, the institute gathers DNA before mapping and tracing the biogeography and evolution of the species.
“So it’s a really important role that something that museums alone are capable of doing. There’s still parts of the world that are completely unknown,” said O’Hara. “This is like the wild west of Australia, it’s just it’s an unknown territory. And so, to be the first person or the first group of people to go there and explore this area in detail is a privilege. And it’s a very exciting endeavor.”
With the aid of sophisticated multibeam sonar and cameras, the team surveyed the ocean floor. Samples were gathered using nets and sleds, which are now being examined.