(CNN) Sailing at a depth of 8,336 meters (more than 27,000 feet) just above the sea floor, the tiny snailfish became the deepest fish ever photographed by scientists during the investigation of the North Pacific abyss.
Scientists from the University of Western Australia and the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology released footage of a snailfish on Sunday that was captured by marine robots in deep trenches off Japan.
Besides filming the deepest snail fish, the scientists physically captured two other specimens at 8,022 meters and set another record for the deepest catch.
Previously, the deepest snailfish ever spotted was at 7,703m in 2008, while scientists weren’t able to collect the fish from anywhere under 8,000m.
“What’s important is that it shows how far a particular type of fish will go down in the ocean,” said marine biologist Alan Jamieson, founder of the Mindero Center for Deep Sea Research, who led the expedition.
Scientists filmed in trenches off Japan as part of a 10-year study of the world’s deepest fish populations. Snailfish are members of the family Lipariidae, Jamieson said, and while most snailfish live in shallow waters, others live at some of the greatest depths ever recorded.
During last year’s two-month survey, three “landers”—automated marine robots equipped with high-resolution cameras—were dropped into three trenches—the Japan, Izu-Ogasawara, and Ryukyu trenches—at varying depths.
In the Izu-Ogasawara trench, the deepest footage showed snailfish hovering calmly alongside other crustaceans on the sea floor.
Classifying the fish as small, Jamieson said that younger deep-sea snailfish often stay as deep as possible to avoid being eaten by larger predators that swim at shallower depths.
Another clip filmed between 7,500 and 8,200 meters in the same trench showed a colony of fish and crustaceans feeding on bait attached to an undersea robot.
Pictures of two snail fish caught – they have been identified as Pseudoliparis belyaevi Offers a rare glimpse into the unique features that help deep-sea species survive the harsh environment.
Their small eyes, transparent body, and lack of an air bladder, which helps other fish float, works in their favor, Jamison said.
The professor said the Pacific Ocean is particularly conducive to vibrant activity because of its warm southerly current, which encourages marine organisms to go deeper, while abundant marine life provides a good source of food for bottom feeders.
Scientists would like to know more about the creatures that live at great depths, Jamison said, but cost is the limitation, adding that each lander costs $200,000 to assemble and operate.
“The challenges are that the technology was very expensive and the scientists didn’t have a lot of money,” he said.
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