Ghost? Try Snailfish: Video Shows World’s Deepest-Dwelling Fish Swimming in Mariana Trench

The never-before-seen fish is caught on camera five miles deep in the Pacific Ocean.
Dec 27, 2014·
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

Want to find the deepest-dwelling fish in the world? Head to the deepest part of the ocean.

That’s where an international team of scientists spent the past month, sending probes to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, miles below the surface of the Pacific Ocean. With video feeds back to the research vessel at the surface, the team captured footage of the deepest fish ever recorded: a delicate and never-before-seen snailfish swimming some five miles down.

Among a swarm of crustacean-like amphipods, the fragile creature glides in and out of the frame, most likely attracted to the bait at the end of the probe’s arm. It was a surprising find at 26,722 feet—some 1,400 feet more than the depth of the previous deepest-diving fish recorded.

“Definitely something new,” University of Hawaii biologist and team coleader Jeff Drazen told National Geographic. “We took one look at the thing and were amazed—big, wide, winglike fins, this eel-like tail and this scalloped face. It was very unique.”

Nicknamed “ghostfish” because of its translucent skin, the six-inch-long specimen and the abundance of other life-forms spotted by the probe’s camera show that communities at extreme depths are much more active and interesting than was previously thought, said Alan Jameison, a deep-sea biologist and coleader of the expedition.

“It’s looking like there’s a lot more life down there than we thought,” Paul Yancey, a team biologist from Whitman College, told NPR. “You know, this is so far from sunlight that people thought there wouldn’t be a lot of life down there, but there is.”

The probe was only equipped with a deep-sea camera and bait to lure in fish; there was no way to catch the snailfish. So the researchers aren’t able to give the specimen a recorded name or formal description.

Other varieties of snailfish are known to thrive at extreme depths, with Pseudoliparis amblystomopsis holding the previous dive record at 25,272 feet.