Comment »Posted on Sunday 12 October 2008 at 4:10 pm by Jacob Aron
In Biology, Weekly Roundup

1.38588913 Leagues Under The Sea

A joint team of UK and Japanese scientists have filmed a shoal of living fish at the record depth of 7.7 km. They found 17 Pseudoliparis amblystomopsis in the Japan Trench in the Pacific Ocean, smashing the previous record, though to be around 7 km. The deepest any fish has been record is more than 8 km down in the Puerto Rico Trench trench, where an Abyssobrotula galatheae specimen was dredged up, but died before reaching the surface.

The fish live in total darkness, using vibrations in the water to navigate and find food. Professor Monty Priede of the University of Aberdeen was surprised at their discovery:

“We certainly thought, deep down, fish would be relatively inactive, saving energy as much as possible, and so on,” said Priede “But when you see the video, the fish are rushing around, feeding accurately, snapping at prey coming past”

“Nobody has seen fish alive before at these depths – only pickled in museums – and by the time they come up from the depths they look in a pretty sorry state.

“But these fish are actually very cute.”

Deep-sea fish - "actually very cute"

The discovery was part of the HADEEP project, a collaboration between the University of Aberdeen’s Oceanlab and the University of Tokyo’s Ocean Research Institute. Funded by the Nippon Foundation and the Natural Environment Research Council, the research aims to discover more about life in the Hadal region of the ocean, which is anywhere from 6 km below the surface. The team even have their own blog.

Journey (0.0000004% of the way) to the Centre of the Earth

American scientists have found life 2.8 km beneath the Earth’s surface, in a gold mine near Johannesburg, South Africa. The bacterium Desulforudis audaxviator is the only living species at this level, making it the first known single-species ecosystem.

Capturing and analysing the bacterium was an extremely collaborative process, with scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), Joint Genome Institute (JGI), and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), working with colleagues from Princeton University, Indiana University, National Taiwan University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Florida State University, the Desert Research Institute, and the University of Western Ontario.

D. audaxviator lives deep within the Earth's surface

The bacterium lives so far down that it has no access to the sun’s life giving energy. Instead, it survives by using hydrogen and sulphate produced by the radioactive decay of uranium. This ability is reflected in the organisms name: Desulforudis comes from the Latin for “from sulfur” and “rod,” whilst Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth contains the Latin message “descende, Audax viator, et terrestre centrum attinges,” – “descend, Bold traveler, and attain the center of the Earth.” It looks like D. audaxviator is well on its way.

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