Oceanlab film deepest fish and ‘supergiants’ in the Mariana Trench

Hadal-Lander video footage

Hadal-Lander video

Watch more footage on the Oceanlab YouTube channel

Scientists at the University of Aberdeen have set a new record for the world's deepest fish, filmed in the Mariana Trench - the deepest place on Earth.

The new finding was just one of several new species discovered, as well as the first footage of the mysterious 'supergiant' amphipod filmed alive.

The footage was recorded using the UK's deepest diving vehicle - the Hadal-Lander - a vehicle designed and built entirely in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

An international team of marine biologists, geologists, microbiologists and geneticists, including those from the University of Aberdeen's Oceanlab, have just returned from the first detailed study of the Mariana Trench aboard Schmidt Ocean Institute's Research Vessel Falkor as part of the Hadal Ecosystem Studies (HADES) project, led by the University of Hawaii's Dr Jeff Drazen.

The team completed an unprecedented 92 deployments of deep-sampling equipment across the entire depth range of the trench; 5000 m - 10,600 m.

The Hadal-Lander video footage depicts a type of snailfish at depths of 8145 metres deep - the greatest depth a fish has ever been observed, beating their own 2008 record by nearly 500 metres.

The team had already discovered a new species of snailfish living between 6000 and 8000m, itself a depth record, but it was an elusive and extremely fragile second species that had them surprised.

“This really deep fish did not look like anything we had seen before, nor does it look like anything we know of” said Dr Jamieson, “it is unbelievably fragile, with large wing-like fins and a head resembling a cartoon dog”.

This new finding was just the icing on the cake. Also captured on video was the extremely rare 'supergiant' amphipod, an extremely large crustacean that was recovered by traps off New Zealand in 2012.

This new footage shows the supergiants swimming, feeding and fending off other would-be predators with its large body size and protective tail.

Knowing these creatures exist is one thing, but to watch them alive in their natural habitat and interacting with other species is truly amazing, we have learnt a great deal.

Dr Alan Jamieson

For Oceanlab, this has been a major success. This trip was their 14th expedition to the deep trenches where they managed to amass the greatest volume of video ever taken at these depths, 105 hours in total. Aside from the new deepest fish record and supergiant observations, they filmed many other species of fish, setting new depth records for three other fish families.

They also successfully reached the bottom of the Sirena deep at 10,545m, solidifying their deep-sea lander, known as the 'Hadal-Lander' as the UKs deepest diving vehicle.

Dr Jamieson added: “We are particularly proud of this vehicle given it was designed and almost entirely built in villages in Aberdeenshire in the Northeast of Scotland”

Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of the Schmidt Ocean Institute was delighted with the success of the expedition.

Rarely, do we get a full perspective of the ocean's unique deep environments. The questions that the scientists will be able to answer following this cruise will pave the way for a better understanding of the deep sea, which is not exempt from human impact.

Wendy Schmidt

The HADES-M lander team, from left to right: Prof. Stuart Piertney (University of Aberdeen), Dr Clifton Nunnally and Ms Mackenzie Gerringer (University of Hawaii), Dr Alan Jamieson and Mr Thomas Linley (University of Aberdeen) and Dr. Jeff Drazen (University of Hawaii). Inset on right is the University of Aberdeen’'s Hadal-Lander.

The HADES-M lander team, from left to right: Prof. Stuart Piertney (University of Aberdeen), Dr Clifton Nunnally and Ms Mackenzie Gerringer (University of Hawaii), Dr Alan Jamieson and Mr Thomas Linley (University of Aberdeen) and Dr. Jeff Drazen (University of Hawaii). Inset on right is the University of Aberdeen's Hadal-Lander.


Bringing in one of Oceanlab's Landers

Oceanlab's Thom Linley and Alan Jamieson bring in one of Oceanlab's Landers after a night in the Mariana Trench.


Crustacean samples

A selection of crustacean samples recovered from the Mariana Trench.


Frame grabs from the Hadal-Lander video footage

Frame grabs of some of the highlights from the Hadal-Lander video footage, showing snailfish, cusk eels and rat-tail fishes, decapods and some very large supergiant amphipods.


Watch more footage on the Oceanlab YouTube channel