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Boffins spot 'faceless fish' in strange alien environment

Chinese and Australian crews peer into the abyss and find weird things looking back

Faceless fish. Source: John Pogonoski, CSIRO, via ABC
Faceless fish. Source: John Pogonoski, CSIRO, via ABC

Scientific expeditions into the deep, deep ocean are like buses: none for ages, then suddenly along come two at once!

China's Jiaolong submersible went the deepest: on Tuesday it sank to 6,699 metres below the waves. In so doing it entered the Mariana Trench. Along the way it spotted what state-directed organ Xinhua describes as “two swimming snailfishes.”

Such creatures are apparently “a typical deep-sea species,” according to mission scientist Peng Xiaotong, who added that the dive also saw Jiaolong return with “ samples of rock, sediment, deep-sea life and sea water.”

Just what life was retrieved has not been explained. The Register imagines Deep Ones were not disturbed, or Xinhua would be reporting a rather different end to the dive.

Australia's efforts saw sonar and nets employed at the Eastern Abyss, a region that begins at 42°South to the East of Tasmania and extends to 24°South near Fraser Island on the edge of the Coral Sea. Among the finds to data are a “faceless fish” that has its eyes beneath its skin. The expedition has also observed a fish known as a Chimaera, or “Ghost Shark”. The species appears to have been a progenitor to modern sharks, but are now largely confined to deep water and are only rarely observed in Australia.

But that's partly because people only rarely look into the abyss: the Australian expedition is exploring some local waters for the first time, largely because it's rather tricky operating at such depths. Which is also what makes the life down there so interesting! ®

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