Only the hardcore survive in the Mariana Trench: At 11 km, it's the deepest part of our planet's oceans, a nearly-alien world right here on Earth. Creatures living in the trench have adapted to survive the extreme pressure, cold, and darkness by evolving into just about the weirdest shit you'll ever see: anglerfish, flying saucer-like jellies, isopods and lizard fish straight out of science fiction.
The humble snailfish, by comparison, looks pretty normal, like it was dropped out of a home aquarium and drifted to the deep. But it's a phenomenal find for researchers. On Thursday, they announced it's the deepest living fish ever spotted.
The team, from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, found the lil guy at 8,178 meters down, more than 5 miles underwater. This beats a record for deepest live fish sighting, set in 2014, by 26 meters. They recorded it on May 18.
The researchers placed two compact landers—one at 7,498 meters and another at 8,178 meters—equipped with 4K high-resolution video cameras, and waited. After three hours and 37 minutes, several snailfish showed up to snack on the rotting mackerel attached to the lander as bait. Seventeen hours and 37 minutes after the deeper lander was placed, a lone fish showed up there, too.
For some context as to how great the pressure is at this depth, in 2014 an unmanned deep-sea submarine crumbled under the pressure at 9,990 meters, more than six miles deep—just one mile deeper than this fish. Humans are incapacitated at 250 feet. At the ocean's deepest point, the pressure has been compared to "having an African elephant stand on your big toenail." Hypothetically, fish can't survive deeper than 8,200 meters before the pressure kills them. This one dances the line for a meal.
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