The deep abyss off Australia’s coasts is still mostly unknown to scientists.
It’s why researchers from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Museum Victoria are currently aboard a monthlong voyage off the east coast. The mission is to uncover what’s lurking deep down in the ocean.
And lo and behold, they’ve found this rather freaky looking faceless fish.
"It’s seriously out of the ordinary," Dianne Bray said. Bray is from the Vertebrate Zoology department at Museum Victoria, and is currently on board the research vessel Investigator.
"It came up from a depth of about 4,000 metres off the Newcastle region of New South Wales, and we had no idea what it was. Literally, we couldn’t see any kind of eyes on the outside."
Image: museum victoria
Tissue samples were taken from the fish for genetic analysis, and images were sent off to experts who could identify it. Then, a picture in a book belonging to one of Bray’s colleagues provided clues.
"We thought it was new, but we worked out it had been described," Bray said. Turns out this faceless fish was actually identified during the Challenger expedition of 1872-1876, the world’s first global oceanographic expedition.
Its scientific name is Typhlonus nasus, and the researchers have dubbed it the "Faceless Cusk."
The fish is also found in the Arabian Sea, the waters of Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Japan, and Hawaii. It’s surprisingly quite "widespread" in the deep sea despite being largely an anomaly to experts.
Still, what lurks below the waters off Australia still remains much of a mystery to researchers.
"Australia’s waters haven’t really been surveyed. We really have no idea what’s exists down there," Bray explained. "We know some of the fish we’ll get, but yesterday we pulled up five fish in the afternoon from a 4,000 metre station — and none of them have been recorded in Australia before."
The data gathered from the expedition will help create an understanding of the country’s deep-sea habitats, biodiversity, and ecological processes which sustain them.
"This will assist in its conservation and management and help to protect it from the impacts of climate change, pollution, and other human activity," Tim O’Hara, the voyage’s leader, said in a statement.
The expedition concludes in Brisbane on June 16.