A weird-looking fish which appears to have no face and has not been seen for over a century has been found by scientists exploring the deep waters off Australia's east coast.
Tim O'Hara, senior curator of marine invertebrates at Museums Victoria, and colleagues from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation or CSIRO of Australia, rediscovered the faceless deep-sea fish measuring 40 centimeters (16 inches) last weekend.
Last Seen In 1873
O'Hara said that it was the first time that the fish has been seen again since 1873 when one of these creatures was scooped up from the waters near Papua New Guinea by the crews of the British ship HMS Challenger.
Most Unexplored Environment On Earth
O'Hara and colleagues are onboard RV Investigator on a month-long journey off Australia's eastern seaboard to survey marine life that thrive in the dark and cold abyss 4 kilometers (13,123 feet) below the surface using sonar and deep-sea cameras as well as nets. O'Hara described the area as the most unexplored environment on Earth.
"The abyss is the largest habitat on the planet, covering half the world's oceans and one-third of Australia's marine territory, but we know very little about it," O'Hara said. "Abyssal animals have been around for at least 40 million years, but until recently only a handful of samples has been collected from Australia's abyss."
The abyss has depths of 4,000 meters to 6,000 meters, which is a hundred times deeper than a deep scuba dive. The depth is also 20 times deeper than what World War II submarines were able to descend and eight times deeper than what can be withstood by an American nuclear submarine.
The faceless fish was found at a depth of 4,000 meters. At this depth, many animals do not have eyes or they produce their own light through bioluminescence. Scientists said that the creature does not seem to have any eyes and has an interestingly odd appearance.
"This little fish looks amazing because the mouth is actually situated at the bottom of the animal so, when you look side-on, you can't see any eyes, you can't see any nose or gills or mouth," O'Hara said. "It looks like two rear-ends on a fish, really."
Strange Creatures Found
Several other creatures have been found in the deep-sea waters such as gigantic sea spiders the size of a dinner plate, bright red spiky rock crabs and bioluminescent sea stars.
Di Bray, from Museums Victoria, however, said that the unusual faceless fish was kind of a highlight for the investigators surveying the Commonwealth marine reserves from northern Tasmania to central Queensland.
While other creatures were not as spectacular as the faceless fish, the researchers said that there are many that are totally new and have not yet been seen before.
The research survey will conclude on June 16. Data gathered from the survey will allow scientists to collect baseline data about the biodiversity of the area and would be helpful in measuring the impacts of climate change in the future.