Tag Archives: abyss

Expedition to the deep ocean reveals myriad of bizarre creatures, including “faceless fish”

An international team of scientists has returned from a deep sea research voyage, finding several intriguing species including what seems to be a fish without a face.

Typhlonus nasus, collected east of Jervis Bay, New South Wales, May 2017. Image credits: Dianne J. Bray / Museum Victoria.

A fish has no face

The voyage, called Sampling the Abyss, was organized and carried out by Museums Victoria and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO). The mission was settling into a normal rhythm when they found a bizarre-looking fish which seemed to have no face. They pulled it up from 4,000 meters — it was unfortunate for the fish, but the team was thrilled.

“Everyone was amazed,” writes Dianne Bray from Museums Victoria. “We fishos thought we’d hit the jackpot, especially as we had no idea what it was. Tissue samples were taken (for genetic analyses) and images were emailed to experts who work on weird abyssal fishes. We even conjured up possible new scientific names!”

After looking through several collections of publications, John Pogonoski, of CSIRO’s Australian National Fish Collection, found something similar. As it turns out, the fish had been described before, in the 80s: a cusk eel, with a name to match: Typhlonus nasus. In Greek, typhlos (= blind) and onos (= hake) — so a blind hake! Cusk eels, as it turns out, are not even eel. So it was not a new species, though a pretty rare one to find.

Abraliopsis – a species of squid found on the trip. Image credits: Dianne J. Bray / Museum Victoria.

Although rare, the fish is spread across a wide geographical range, known to be from the Arabian Sea, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Japan, and Hawaii. Interestingly, the first time this fish was discovered was in 1874, when the Voyage of HMS Challenger(link is external), the world’s first round the world oceanographic expedition, recovered one from a depth of 2440 fathoms nearby Australia. In case you’re wondering, a fatho is a unit of length equal to six feet (1.8 metres). I know, the Imperial System confuses me too.

An illustration of one of the syntypes (similar type specimens upon which the description and name of a new species is based) of Typhlonus nasus. Image: Günther (1887) Rept Sci. Res. HMS Challenger 22(57): Pl. 25. License: Public Domain.

More than 100 years later, a chubbier and somewhat happier-looking Faceless Cusk. Image: John Pogonoski, CSIRO Australian National Fish Collection.

Also, despite its appearance, the fish does have a face; it even has eyes! It’s just hidden.
“Although very little is known about this strange fish without a face, it does have eyes – which are apparently visible well beneath the skin in smaller specimens. I doubt they’d be of much use though, so we’ve decided to call it the Faceless Cusk,” Bray added.
This isn’t the only bizarre species they found. The team also recovered several species of sea spiders, or pycnogonids — alien-looking living fossils, brilliantly adapted to the cold, dark environment of the deep seas.

The team still has a few more weeks of survey so if you want to follow the team’s adventure, you can do so on their blog here.

e. This image shows heat radiating from the Pacific Ocean as imaged by the NASA’s Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System instrument on the Terra satellite. (Blue regions indicate thick cloud cover.)

Ocean Abyss hasn’t Warmed – Where’s All The Heat?

The ocean abyss hasn’t warmed significantly since 2005, according to a new NASA study, further deepening the mystery of why global warming has apparently ground to halt in the past couple of years. The researchers stress, however, that the findings do not indicate that there isn’t any man-made climate change; sea levels are still rising, it’s just the fine details that are currently escaping scientists.

Global warming still heating the planet

e. This image shows heat radiating from the Pacific Ocean as imaged by the NASA’s Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System instrument on the Terra satellite. (Blue regions indicate thick cloud cover.)

e. This image shows heat radiating from the Pacific Ocean as imaged by the NASA’s Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System instrument on the Terra satellite. (Blue regions indicate thick cloud cover.) Image: NASA

Today, there are more greenhouse gases, like CO2 or methane, released into the atmosphere then ever before, yet global surface temperatures have stopped following the emissions curve for some time. Clearly, the heat is there somewhere, but where? Recent estimates have calculated that 26 percent of all the carbon released as CO2 from fossil fuel burning, cement manufacture, and land-use changes over the decade 2002–2011 was absorbed by the oceans, which act like a huge carbon sink. (About 28 percent went to plants and roughly 46 percent to the atmosphere.)

The heat causes the water to expand and melt glaciers – both factors cause sea levels to rise. Sure enough, the waters have heated up, but temperature readings suggest these haven’t warmed fast enough to account for the stalled air temperatures. Some scientists, backed by climate models, suggest the excess heat may be found in the ocean abyss – below the 1.24-mile mark.

Global heat increase by absorbing medium.

Global heat increase by absorbing medium.

Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, analyzed satellite and direct ocean temperature data from 2005 to 2013 to test the idea. To probe the waters’ temperature directly, a network of 3,000 floating temperature probes called the Argo array were deployed.

The researchers reached this conclusion after applying a surprisingly simple subtraction calculation. Because water expands when heated, the team calculated the total amount of sea level rise, then subtracted the amount of rise from the expansion in the upper ocean, and the amount of rise that came from added meltwater. What’s left should correspond deep ocean warming, yet the figure was insignificant.

“The deep parts of the ocean are harder to measure,” said JPL’s William Llovel, lead author of the study published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change. “The combination of satellite and direct temperature data gives us a glimpse of how much sea level rise is due to deep warming. The answer is — not much.”