Not knowing what lies at the bottom of the seas has the advantage of allowing speculative horror films. Perhaps creativity ends there, given the temporary names of three previously unknown species of snailfish that have been identified at a depth of 7,500 meters below the surface in the Pacific: pink, purple and blue.
It is true that "the pink, the blue and the purple Atacama Snailfish" are only temporarily named as such. At a given moment they get the right Latin names.
No matter how they are mentioned, they are now discovered and even filmed deep in the Atacama Trench, a crack in the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.
The exploration of the black depths of the Atacama included a team of 40 scientists from 17 different countries. Among their discoveries are three previously unknown species of snailfish, also called sea snails. What are not snails, they are fish.
The Atacama ditch is in some parts almost 6,000 kilometers long and more than 8,000 meters deep. It runs along the west coast of South America.
"Sea snails" are actually a huge family of predator fish with predatory fish. A bit like the Hollywood version of ancient Roman soldiers, the snailfish have bony armor that stretches across their cheeks. Most live in shallow, temperate waters, but these live in total darkness under bone crushing pressure of about 750 atmospheres.
Glad to see you
Say "deep-sea fishing" and of course the dramatic anglerfish, which have yawning heads, terrifying teeth and a special appendage hanging on their foreheads, are designed to attract fish that may contain biological luminous bacteria. Horrible according to most standards, they usually look like nightmares. Monkfish can also be frighteningly large, up to more than a meter long, but fortunately they do not live where people can see them without help.
Not our new friends. Pink and also purple and blue are small, practically transparent things. The most difficult elements in their small gelatinous bodies are teeth (we have said carnivorous) and the inner ear, explains Dr. Thomas Linley of the University of Newcastle. Like their fellow in the black depths, however, they have their nightmarish aspect.
"Without the extreme pressure and cold to support their bodies, they are extremely fragile and melt quickly when brought to the surface," says Linley.
Yes, melting in your hand sounds like a horror movie again.
"There are many invertebrate prey there and the snailfish is the top predator, they seem pretty active and look very good," he adds.
Well fed? "Out of the reach of other fish, they are free of competitors and predators," explains the team.
The fish were spotted and documented thanks to camera systems with bait called "landers" designed at the University of Newcastle to explore the distant oceanic depths. The landers are dropped from ships and simply fall to the ocean floor (which can take hours), where they supervise and take on tasks. Once the sampling is complete, the researchers send an acoustic signal to a trap with bait, which releases the weights and the lander rises to the surface.
In addition to the snailfish, the team also filmed a number of amazingly rare images of long-legged isopods, known as Munnopsids, which are about the size of an adult hand. They look like spiders with small bodies and very, very, very long legs. It is not known if they melt when they are extracted from their environment.