Faceless Fish Reappears After a Hundred Years

Fagjun | Published 2017-06-04 05:53

A faceless fish that made its appearance only once over a hundred years ago has reappeared off the east coast of Australia.

Apparently, researchers were not only able to rediscover a lost species. They were also able to dredge up quite a lot of trash from the bottom of the ocean.

The last time that the mysterious fish made an appearance was in 1873. A British ship off the coast of Papua New Guinea dredged one of the faceless fish up from the depths. Since then, there have been no sightings of the fish.

This is the Typhlonus nasus, also known as the faceless cusk. The specimen is 40cm long, and not actually faceless. Its mouth is on its underside, and its nose and gills aren't visible from its side—hence its nickname.

Finding Faceless Fish

Footage of the faceless cusk
[Image by John Cummings]

A team of scientists from the Australian government was on a month-long journey studying the unexplored parts of the ocean. The voyage began on May 15, with 27 scientists, 13 technicians, and 20 crew members aboard the research vessel the Investigator. Each day, the team collects animal and sediment samples from the bottom of the ocean.

They found the faceless denizen of the deep four kilometers from the surface of the water. As they examined the specimen, they discovered that the fish has two spots on its head that look like eyes. However, it's likely that these spots are actually its nostrils. Barreleye fish, which also swims in deeper waters, has nostrils that look like eyes as well.

In fact, the faceless fish is also eyeless. Many fish from the deeper parts of the oceans don't actually have eyes, which won't really function in the dark waters.

So far, the team has found many other species, a third of which may be unknown to science. The team's finds include bio-luminescent sea stars, bright red rock crabs, and sea spiders as big as plates. Cameras have also caught footage of a kind of chimaera, a fish with photosensitive plates on its head, and tripod fish. Though some of the new finds aren't as riveting as the faceless fish, they are still new discoveries.

Trolling for Trash?

A specimen of the faceless cusk
[Photo by John Pogonoski / Australian NAtional Fish Collection CSIRO

With a little less than two more weeks to go, Investigator's research team may be able to discover more new finds. However, these new finds will probably include more trash items from deep under the surface.

The team has found PVC pipes, cans of paint, and debris from an old steam ship. “It’s quite amazing. We’re in the middle of nowhere and still the sea floor has 200 years of rubbish on it,” says Dr Tim O’Hara, leader of the expedition.

This piece of information comes after a report that the Mariana Trench, one of the most inaccessible places on the planet, is extremely polluted. Sadly, this information isn't really surprising given what we probably know about human trash disposal.

With any luck, the researchers will able to find more new species other than the faceless fish. Because the team had quite a lot of luck in the first two weeks, perhaps they'll have the same luck in the last two.

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