The life and times of hadal snailfishes


The deepest-living fishes in the ocean are small, pink, and look delicate, but they are thriving in an environment named for the proverbial hell.

How are they surviving under such high pressures? What do they eat? How long do they live?  Why do snailfishes do so well in deep-sea trenches?

This new review article, published in Integrative Organismal Biology, synthesizes what we know about this amazing group of animals.

A bucket-list fish…

Cusk eel, an aphyonine.
The ghostly cusk eel, an aphyonine fish seen by NOAA OER.

The remotely-operated vehicle, Deep Discoverer, explores the deep sea live, while anyone with an internet connection can tune in. The sense of excitement and discovery is palpable. As we watch NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer live feed, we sometimes discuss: what would be the top things you would want to see. This fish made the top of our lists and last year, we saw it! It’s an aphyonine cusk eel, in the family Ophidiidae, and this is the first time one has been seen alive!

Continue reading “A bucket-list fish…”

Gelatinous Tissues and Robot Snailfish

Robot snailfish
Robotic model of a hadal snailfish to investigate swimming performance.

Some deep-sea fish are full of a gelatinous goo—a watery tissue layer. These tissues show up in several different types of fishes, but why are they there? Our new open-access paper in Royal Society Open Science tackles this question. We describe which fishes have gelatinous tissue, show the chemistry of what gelatinous tissues are made of, and test some of the functions. Gelatinous tissues likely help deep-sea fishes maintain buoyancy. They may also act as faring, changing the shape of the fish to reduce drag. And, of course, we needed to build a robot hadal snailfish! Check out the full paper and coverage by Science News!

Expanding Your Horizons

Mackenzie Gerringer shows deep-sea fishes at EYH event in Hawaii.
Mackenzie Gerringer shows deep-sea fishes at EYH event in Hawaii.

A wonderful weekend at the University of Hawaii – Expanding Your Horizons Event! Exciting to encourage girls to stay interested in STEM fields with our Journey to the Deep workshop.