You don't need to go to space to explore places that no man has ever been to. Recently, an international team of scientists went on the world's first survey to explore marine biodiversity in the abyssal waters off the east coast of Australia.
The abyssal zone is a layer of the ocean at depths of 13,000 to 20,000 ft (4,000 to 6,000 metres). This zone remains in perpetual darkness. The temperature there is around 36 to 37 °F (2-3 °C) and it's a very food-limited environment. "The abyss is the largest and deepest habitat on the planet, covering half the world's oceans and one-third of Australia's territory, but it remains the most unexplored environment on Earth," said Museums Victoria senior curator Tim O'Hara on the voyage's departure.
The researchers divided themselves into two shifts (2:00─14:00 and 14:00─2:00). Tirelessly sending their equipment nearly 16,000 foot deep, they hauled over 100 different species aboard their vessel, the Investigator. Five of them are thought to have never been discovered before!
Processing the catch involved separating different species, photographing the creepy specimens to record their colors, extracting muscle samples for DNA analysis, and so on. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) ichthyologist John Pogonoski claimed they spent many hours processing the samples. According to him, the voyage is nothing less than "frontier science" that will undoubtedly increase our understanding of the deep-sea. The scientists are still busy preserving the finds for museums around the world. They will be available for research in the future as well. While everyone's waiting for CSIRO Australian National Fish Conference (ANFC) where names to these faceless critters will be given, scroll down and check out some of the spookiest from the whole gang.
More info: nespmarine.edu.au
#1 Red Spiny Crab
This bright red spiny crab sports an armour of spikes which protect it from the dangers of the deep. These are not actually true crabs but related more to hermit crabs – although this hermit has traded in its shell for gnarly spikes.
This mysterious little deep-sea coffinfish, with its bluish eyes and red feet, belongs to the anglerfish group. It is potentially a new species.
#3 Glass Sponge
These incredible glass sponges have a skeleton made of a lattice of silica filaments, some of which can be up to a metre long. They feed by sifting bacteria and other single-celled organisms from the water gently passing over their delicate glass housing.
#4 Peanut Worm
The peanut worm (Sipuncula) is a deep-sea worm resembling a phallus. When threatened, they can contract their long head inwards and look more like a peanut. They can reproduce both sexually and asexually.
#5 Cookiecutter Shark
This nasty little bioluminescent shark, with its neatly arranged serrated teeth, inhabits the oceanic “twilight zone” in depths of up to 1,000 metres. It preys on big fishes, whales, dolphins and the occasional unfortunate swimmer, latching onto them before gouging out cookie-sized chunks of flesh.
#6 Lizard Fish
Being the dominant predator of the depths isn't easy though: at depths of 1000–2500 metres there is very little food, so lizard fish are few are far between to maximise scarce resources.
#7 Blob Fish
This blob fish was collected from a depth of 2.5 kilometres off New South Wales. It has soft watery flesh and is an ambush predator that lies very still on the bottom, waiting for unsuspecting prey to pass by.
#8 'Faceless' Fish
With no eyes, the “faceless” fish was found four kilometres below the surface. The species was first collected in the northern Coral Sea more than 140 years ago during the voyage of HMS Challenger, the world’s first round-the-world oceanographic expedition. It has been rediscovered in Australia after more than a century.
These coral organisms belong to the same group as anemones, jelly fish, hard corals and other tentacled creatures of the sea.