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"Faceless Fish" Rediscovered In Australia After Not Being Seen Since The 1870s

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Tom Hale

author

Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

The deeper you go, the strange life becomes, it seems: Meet the recently rediscovered faceless fish. Courtesy of John Pogonoski/Museums Victoria

Whenever there’s a strange creature discovery, there’s a strong chance it’s from one of two places: the fathoms of the deep sea, or Australia. Well, this one is from both, so you can only imagine how odd it is.

Researchers on a scientific voyage exploring an area of the deep sea near Australia for the first time have discovered a "faceless fish" that was last seen over a century ago.

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This 40-centimeter (15-inch) oddity was discovered in the deep waters off the eastern coast of Australia. Since light can't reach these depths, sight isn’t that helpful for survival so many deep sea species are blind or even lack eyes, just like this guy. This particular species does not seem to have a nose either, and its mouth appears to be underneath on the base of its body.

It’s believed that the only other time this fish has been reported was by scientists on the HMS Challenger expedition, an Earth-shattering research project that cataloged over 4,000 previously unknown marine species between 1872 and 1876.

The new discovery comes from an international team of 40 scientists who are currently onboard the RV Investigator for a collaborative project between Museums Victoria, CSIRO, and other Australian research agencies.

“We know that abyssal animals have been around for at least 40 million years, but until recently only a handful of samples had been collected from Australia’s abyss," said Museums Victoria’s Senior Curator and the project's chief scientist, Dr Tim O’Hara, in an emailed statement.

The lovable freak back in the lab. Courtesy of John Pogonoski/Museums Victoria
The "faceless fish" last spotted off Papua New Guinea in 1873. Courtesy of John Pogonoski/Museums Victoria

“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,” he added.

Their work will use cameras, nets, multi-beam sonar, and other high-tech research equipment to document habitats between 2,500 to 4,000 meters (8,200 to 13,120 feet). A main drive of the project is to discover new species and analyze the chemistry and DNA of their tissues in the hopes of finding out how these deep-sea populations interact with each other.

The faceless fish isn’t the only species they have discovered so far. Their ”Blogging The Abyss” page has been reporting the findings of this expedition over the past month. They have also found bizarre blind sea spiders, a super-spikey red rock crab, and carnivorous sponges.

“The data gathered on this trip will be crucial to understanding Australia’s deep-sea habitats, their biodiversity and the ecological processes that sustain them,” Dr O’Hara added. “This will assist in its conservation and management and help to protect it from the impacts of climate change, pollution, and other human activity.”


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