Scientists have discovered a new species of fish living in the world’s deepest oceans – more than FOUR MILES below sea level.
The new species of snail fish can withstand incredible pressure – equivalent to 1,600 elephants standing on the roof of a Mini.
The fish, which has not even been officially named yet, was discovered by marine experts probing the deep-see trenches off the South East Pacific Ocean off the Chilean coast.
Initially they believed the pitch black and freezing conditions were too harsh to sustain life.
But researchers were stunned when they photographed the ghostly white species living 7,000m (23,000ft) below sea level.
Incredibly, groupings of cusk-eels and large crustacean scavengers were also discovered living at these depths for the first time.
The team of scientists from around the world are now performing tests to find out more about the rare 25cm (9in) long snail fish.
Expedition leader Dr Alan Jamieson, from the University of Aberdeen, said:
”Our findings, which revealed diverse and abundant species at depths previously thought to be void of fish, will prompt a rethink into marine populations at extreme depths.
”What we found was that indeed there was another unique species of snail fish living at 7,000m – entirely new to science, which had never been caught or seen before.
”These findings prompt a re-evaluation of the diversity and abundance of life at extreme depths.
”Furthermore, it is now apparent that each of the deep trenches across the globe hosts a unique assembly of animals which can differ greatly from trench to trench.
”The immense isolation of each trench draws parallels with island evolution theory popularised by Darwin’s finches.”
Dr Jamieson launched the three-week long expedition with a team of marine biologists from Aberdeen, Tokyo and New Zealand on September 10.
They used cutting edge technology to take 6,000 images between 4,500 and 8,000 metres deep within the trench.
One camera was attached with bait to lure the reclusive fish into the open.
They found the snail fish around four-and-a-half miles below the surface in almost uninhabitable conditions in the Peru-Chile trench.
The discovery could mean that there are thousands more unknown fish in hidden depths in the world’s ocean.
The latest discovery follows images of the Hadal snail fish which was filmed for the first time living 7,700m below sea level off Japan’s east coast in October 2008.
The new discovery is similar to the Hadal snail fish but is much more slender and has larger fins.
Dr Jamieson added: ”This expedition was prompted by our findings in 2008 and 2009 off Japan and New Zealand where we discovered new species of snail fish known as Liparids – inhabiting trenches off Japan and New Zealand at depths of approximately 7,000m – with each trench hosting its own unique species of the fish.
”To test whether these species would be found in all trenches, we repeated our experiments on the other side of the Pacific Ocean off Peru and Chile, some 6,000 miles from our last observations.
Dr Toyonobu Fujii, a deep-sea fish expert from the University of Tokyo,
said: ”How deep fish can live has long been an intriguing question and the results from this expedition has provided deeper insight into our understanding of the global distribution of fish in the oceans.”
The team have investigated deep waters for the last three years in a project with the University of Aberdeen’s Oceanlab and the University of Tokyo’s Ocean Research Institute and New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research institute (NIWA).