A bizarre, deep sea fish without a face has been re-discovered after going missing for nearly 150 years. Researchers from Museums Victoria and the Australian government’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) reeled in the creature during a recent voyage off Australia, 4 kilometers below the surface, reports the Guardian.
Truth be told, the fish isn't exactly faceless. It does have a mouth and two beady-red nostrils, but its otherwise featureless head makes it difficult to determine the front end of the animal from the back end.
“This little fish looks amazing because the mouth is actually situated at the bottom of the animal so, when you look side-on, you can’t see any eyes, you can’t see any nose or gills or mouth,” explained Tim O’Hara, the chief scientist and expedition leader. “It looks like two rear-ends on a fish, really.”
The creature was caught as part of an unprecedented survey of commonwealth marine reserves along the Australian eastern coastline. As many as one-third of all the species being recorded by the expedition are new to science. While this isn't the first time one of these faceless fish have been seen, it's the first documented account of the species since 1873.
200 years of rubbish
Aside from discovering strange and wondrous organisms, the expedition has also uncovered a monstrous reality happening at the bottom of our oceans: the amount of trash sometimes seems to outnumber the fish.
“There’s a lot of debris, even from the old steam ship days when coal was tossed overboard,” said O'Hara. “We’ve seen PVC pipes and we’ve trawled up cans of paints. It’s quite amazing. We’re in the middle of nowhere and still the sea floor has 200 years of rubbish on it.”
The ocean's abyssal plains are becoming our planet's waste baskets, as toxins and dreck pile up in trenches and other low places of the sea floor. In fact, earlier this year scientists detected "extraordinary" levels of toxic pollution in the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the world's oceans.
It's therefore increasingly important that researchers document the unique biodiversity of these little-studied parts of our planet to establish a baseline, so that future studies can more accurately calculate the impacts of pollution in these remote habitats.