Cousin of ugli­est fish hauled up from abyss

China Daily (Canada) - - WORLD -

SYD­NEY — More than 100 rarely seen fish species were hauled up from a deep and cold abyss off Aus­tralia dur­ing a sci­en­tific voy­age, re­searchers said on Wed­nes­day, in­clud­ing a cousin of the “world’s ugli­est an­i­mal” Mr. Blobby.

Sci­en­tists spent a month last year on a ves­sel off the coun­try’s eastern se­aboard sur­vey­ing life lurk­ing up to 4.8 kilo­me­ters below the sur­face, us­ing nets, sonar and deep-sea cam­eras.

Over 42,000 fish and in­ver­te­brates were caught, some of which are po­ten­tially new species with sci­en­tists gath­er­ing in the Tas­ma­nian cap­i­tal Ho­bart this week to ex­am­ine them more closely.

They in­clude blob fishes, which are cousins of Mr. Blobby, who was voted the world’s ugli­est an­i­mal in 2013 by the Ugly An­i­mal Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety and be­came a global me­dia sen­sa­tion.

Blobby, from the psy­chro­lu­ti­dae fam­ily, was dis­cov­ered off the coast of New Zealand in 2003 and af­fec­tion­ately named by the sci­en­tists who found it.

Other species un­earthed dur­ing last year’s voy­age in­cluded bi­o­lu­mi­nes­cent cookie-cut­ter sharks with razor-sharp ser­rated teeth, a haul of fright­en­ing lizard fish, and grace­ful tri­pod fish, which prop them­selves on the sea floor on long fins wait­ing for food to drift within reach.

Sci­en­tists have pre­vi­ously re­vealed they also came across an un­usual face­less fish, which has only been recorded once be­fore by the pi­o­neer­ing crew of HMS Chal­lenger off Pa­pua New Guinea in 1873.

Mu­se­ums Vic­to­ria ichthy­ol­o­gist Martin Gomon said the gath­er­ing in Ho­bart was the first sys­tem­atic at­tempt to ex­am­ine life at abyssal zone depths any­where along Aus­tralia’s vast coast­line.

“The dis­cov­er­ies pro­vide us with a glimpse into how our marine fauna fits into the in­ter­con­nected abyssal en­vi­ron­ment world­wide and for the sci­en­tists, adds an­other piece to the puz­zle of what af­fects evo­lu­tion in the deep sea,” he said.

Life at such depths is one of crush­ing pres­sures, no light, lit­tle food and freez­ing tem­per­a­tures, with an­i­mals that call it home evolv­ing unique ways to sur­vive.

As food is scarce, they are usu­ally small and move slowly. Many are jel­ly­like and spend their lives float­ing about, while oth­ers have fe­ro­cious spines and fangs and lie in wait un­til food comes to them.

CSIRO ichthy­ol­o­gist John Po­gonoski de­scribed the trip as “fron­tier science” which was vi­tal for in­creas­ing sci­en­tists’ un­der­stand­ing of the deep-sea en­vi­ron­ment.

“We are in­ves­ti­gat­ing pos­si­ble new species and fishes never be­fore recorded in Aus­tralian wa­ters,” he said.

The voy­age, an in­ter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tion led by Mu­se­ums Vic­to­ria, was the first ever sur­vey of the abyssal wa­ters off Aus­tralia’s east coast.

Aus­tralian Na­tional Fish Col­lec­tion man­ager Alas­tair Gra­ham said it was the largest

to clean up land­fills and pro­vide clean drink­ing water to af­fected com­mu­ni­ties.

But Min­nesota sued in 2010, al­leg­ing 3M re­searched PFCs and knew the chem­i­cals were get­ting into the en­vi­ron­ment and pos­ing a threat to hu­man health.

In a state­ment Tues­day, 3M se­nior vice pres­i­dent of re­search and devel­op­ment John Banovetz said the com­pany is proud of its record of en­vi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship and does not be­lieve there is a PFC-re­lated health is­sue.

Since the Min­nesota law­suit was filed in 2010, con­cerns over PFCs have grown. The Star Tri­bune re­ported that in 2016, the EPA dras­ti­cally and deep­est habi­tat on the planet, cov­er­ing one third of Aus­tralia’s ter­ri­tory.

“But it re­mains the most un­ex­plored en­vi­ron­ment on Earth,” he said. re­duced the rec­om­mended max­i­mum lev­els of PFC con­cen­tra­tions for drink­ing water. As a re­sult, about 15 mil­lion peo­ple learned their drink­ing water wasn’t con­sid­ered safe for long-term con­sump­tion.

The Star Tri­bune re­ported that the EPA’s ad­vi­sory sent com­mu­ni­ties na­tion­wide scram­bling to in­stall tech­nol­ogy to treat water. Some of those com­mu­ni­ties have sued, and some are in­ves­ti­gat­ing to de­ter­mine who or what pro­duced the PFCs in their water, and what, if any, long-term ef­fects they might face due to con­tin­ued ex­po­sure.

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