SCOTTISH marine experts have uncovered a new species of fish almost three miles below the surface during a voyage to one of the deepest points on the planet.
The scientists from Aberdeen University’s world renowned Oceanlab discovered the new species of eelpout, a bottom feeding ray finned fish, living at a depth of 4650 yards on the edge of the Kermadec Trench to the north of New Zealand.
The Kermadec Trench is one of the deepest places on the world’s oceans with depths exceeding six miles.
During their seven day voyage near the Kermadec Islands, the Oceanlab team also recorded a new depth record of 6014 yards for a rattail fish and a new depth record for a species of large deep sea cusk eel.
The scientists on board the research vessel RV Kaharoa used landers with cameras attached to free-fall to the seafloor, as well as baited fish traps to attract the fish.
The expedition’s leader Dr Alan Jamieson, from Oceanlab, said: “We are never quite sure what we will find on these expeditions to unchartered territories. We had set out to find out more about the deep sea fish communities and we were delighted to find both new species and new depth records for fish.
“Between this and the previous expeditions we have now sampled from a depth range greater than Mount Everest is high. What makes the whole experience even more personally satisfying is that all the equipment used in these research cruises was designed and constructed at Oceanlab.”
He added: A voyage such as this is testament to how feasible scientific research in the deep sea has become. It is no longer the inaccessible, out of reach, part of the world it once was. The technological challenges of the past are being overcome, and shouldn’t limit our responsibility to learn about and understand the deep sea to help ensure the long term health of the deep oceans - one of the largest environments on Earth.”
Dr Malcolm Clark , the principal scientists with New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, said: “The international collaboration enables New Zealand researchers to use scientific equipment we don’t have, and to sample places that would otherwise be inaccessible, and hence unknown.
“The results from this deep exploration are giving us a much better understanding of biodiversity in the deep sea around New Zealand, and enable us to better assess potential risks to the ecosystem from future climate change and even human activities which may include seabed mining.”