A sunny winter day in 2016 discovered marine biologist Yoshihiro Fujiwara anchored off the coast of central Japan, measuring pudgy cusk eels, when a hubbub instantly erupted aboard ship. The crew of the Shonan Maru had simply landed an enormous, bizarre-looking fish.
“Wow! We acquired a coelacanth!” they joked as they hauled up a specimen so giant it evoked the legendary “residing fossil” species discovered solely in Africa and Indonesia.
Fujiwara, whose specialty is “whale fall” communities — the wealthy ecosystems that spring up round and feed off whale carcasses — was equal components thrilled and skeptical.
“It was thrilling,” he instructed CBS Information. “However this can be a very well-studied bay.”
Certainly it’s. Researchers have been constructing a taxonomy of specimens from Suruga, Japan’s deepest bay, for the reason that nineteenth century.
The world can also be one of the closely fished on this planet. Absolutely, Fujiwara thought, somebody had noticed this colossal creature earlier than.
Amazingly, nobody had. Fujiwara and his group from the Japan Company for Marine-Earth Science and Know-how (JAMSTEC) cross-checked reference books and consulted with colleagues world wide earlier than concluding the spear-shaped, purple-hued creature from the deep was certainly a bonafide discovery.
Three extra specimens of the monster fish can be hooked that 12 months, shortly preserved in formaldehyde or frozen for later perusal within the lab.
Dissection, CT-scans and different evaluation located the specimen inside the alepocephalid household, a deep-sea species distributed worldwide and popularly often known as “slickheads,” for his or her scale-free heads and gill covers. However not like its a lot smaller family members, which common simply 14 inches in size, this was a beast: At 55 inches lengthy and 55 kilos, it had the scale and heft of a small little one.
Fujiwara and his group determined to call the brand new species “yokozuna slickhead,” after the highest rank in sumo wrestling.
“I could not imagine it,” biologist Jan Yde Poulsen, a analysis affiliate with the Australian Museum and an authority on slickheads, instructed CBS Information from his base in Denmark.
Poulsen, who co-authored a paper in January with the JAMSTEC group on the yokozuna slickhead, was additionally doubtful when he acquired the primary photograph from Fujiwara’s group.
“It is a very grainy photograph, nearly like once you see a photograph of the Loch Ness monster,” he mentioned. “The truth that you discover a new species that weighs 25 kilos is simply unbelievable.”
Regardless of its hostile deep sea, pitch-black habitat, the slickhead wasn’t simply huge, it was brawny. Whereas different slickhead species gobble plankton and weak swimmers like jellyfish, DNA examination of the enormous fish’s abdomen contents confirmed it hunted different fish, maybe supplementing its eating regimen by scavenging.
Not like the opposite 100-odd slickhead species identified to the world, the yokozuna is a vigorous swimmer, presumably in a position to cowl lengthy distances, as evidenced by a couple of seconds of uncommon video captured with a baited digicam at a depth of just about 8,500 ft.
The slickhead’s “broad gape” mouth homes a number of rows of enamel, conjuring up an extra-terrestrial monster. Fujiwara’s group tried to rely the densely packed fangs and their strictly unofficial conclusion: “80 to 100” enamel in these jaws.
The bodily attributes, along with biochemical evaluation, recognized the yokozuna slickhead as an apex predator — the deep-sea model of a lion or killer whale.
“We’ve got so many dives worldwide,” Fujiwara mentioned. “But it surely’s uncommon to see a high predator.”
The well-endowed marine company owns a slew of refined submersibles and different deep-sea exploration automobiles, “however these are very noisy and use vibrant gentle,” mentioned Fujiwara. “Most high predators are very energetic, so (they) can simply escape from our submersible.”
His group decided that deploying specially-made lengthy traces — lengthy sufficient to succeed in the ocean flooring, outfitted with lots of of mackerel-baited hooks — can be simpler, albeit time-consuming. It takes as much as 4 hours to deploy these ultra-long traces, that are left within the water in a single day.
Whereas lots of of latest fish species are recognized yearly, the difficult-to-access deep sea nonetheless holds many mysteries.
“We don’t know what’s down there,” Fujiwara mentioned.