Scientists send cameras into unexplored Pacific trench—find…very little?


posted Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 2:21 PM EST


Usually when you hear of scientists sending cameras into the very deepest parts of the ocean, you expect to hear stories of bizarre and wonderful creatures. Of blobfishes and enormous jellyfish. But sometimes, you don't see anything that exotic—but that's just as interesting, for totally different reasons.

A recent expedition organized by the University of Aberdeen's Oceanlab and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand sent a camera down into the depths of the previously unexplored New Hebrides trench in the Pacific. The cameras went as far down as 7,000m (almost 23,000 feet), and was loaded with bait to attract animals. What the scientists discovered was far less biodiversity than they had expected. They saw grey cusk eels, red prawns, and arrow-tooth eel pouts, but not much else.

Talking to the BBC, Oceanlab's Dr. Alan Jamieson said:

"The surprising thing was that there was a complete and utter lack of one of the most common deep sea fish we would expect to see. Anywhere else around the Pacific Rim, around the trenches we've looked at, you see a lot of grenadiers - they are quite a conspicuous part of the deep-sea community. But when we went to the New Hebrides trench, we didn't see a single one.

"But what we did see was a fish called the cusk eel. These turn up elsewhere but in very, very low numbers. But around the New Hebrides trench, these - and the prawns - were all that we saw."

The reason for this it seems, is that the trench is a low nutrient environment—and in fact, so are the waters above it. The eels are able to thrive in these difficult situations, but there's not enough there to support a much larger variety of biodiversity.

And while that might not be as exciting as some sort of deep sea monstrosity—it's still very interesting in its own right.

(via io9)