This week, scientists came together at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Australian National Fish Collection in Hobart, Tasmania, for a review of the catch dredged up during the "Sampling the Abyss" voyage that took place in 2017.
The need to thoroughly examine the specimens collected was necessary in order to better identify exactly what was caught of the 42,700 fish and invertebrates that wound up in their nets. To date, up to five new species have been catalogued.
During the month-long voyage, scientists aboard the research vessel Investigator set sail across the eastern Australian abyss on a mapping and sampling expedition between Tasmania and Queensland. Their mission was to determine just what's down there in places where no one's ever been and even the residents never venture up.
Exploring the Unknown
Like much of the seafloor, relatively little is known about the strange aquatic life that survives at great depths in the abyss. Museums Victoria ichthyologist Martin Gomon, who was present at the CSIRO event, stated, "For those of us aboard, it was a real buzz to see the amazing fishes … as they emerged from the nets, and we're looking forward to the opportunity to take a closer look at them in Hobart this week."
Among the many odd creatures snared were a shortarse feeler fish, a type of blobfish, a lizard fish and a faceless fish. The latter hadn't been seen since the 1870s off the coast of Papua New Guinea, where the only other known specimen was found, and the shortarse feeler is only the second of its kind ever to be discovered in Australian waters. Both rare finds.
Dubbed the world's ugliest animal, the blobfish, or Psychrolutes marcidus, may have lost some distant cousins during the expedition, as researchers think they may have found some on the trip. Gelatinous masses that more closely resemble the Mucinex glob, except perhaps in color, blobfish live at depths between 2,000 and 3,900 ft. where they float above the sea floor.
The voyage was also an effort to weigh the affects of humankind's impact on these remote areas. According to expedition leader Tim O'Hara, senior curator of marine invertebrates at Museums Victoria, "There wasn't a day at sea when we didn't bring up some rubbish from the seafloor — cans, bottles, plastic, rope, fishing line."
To understand the magnitude of the abyss and the research undertaken, Alastair Graham, manager of the Australian National Fish Collection, summed it up like this: "The abyss is the largest and deepest habitat on the planet, covering half the world's oceans and one-third of Australia's territory, but it remains the most unexplored environment on Earth. The survey collected some very rare and unusual species, and represents one of the deepest collections of fishes from Australian waters."
Source: Live Science