On July 10, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Okeanos Explorer completed a 69-day, 3-stage expedition of previously unknown and poorly understood deepwater habitats.
The first leg, exploring the southern half of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, wrapped up on May 11. See some of their incredible finds here: 10 Stunning Undersea Creatures From the Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas
This last leg explores the northern half of these protected marine areas. Scientists captured images and video of many of the incredible creatures that live at these extreme depths, some of them never seen before or found thriving in unexpected places.
Due to its remote location, this area remains one of the “last relatively pristine marine ecosystems on the planet,” reports NOAA.
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This tiny ‘ghost fish’ is the first of its family, Aphyonidae, to be observed alive. It has transparent, gelatinous skin, no scales, and pigement-less eyes. This fish was on the “bucket list” of many scientists watching the expedition, says fishery biologist Bruce Mundy.
It’s easy to see how this brightly colored coral got its name. The green strands look like a plant, but they can’t be—due to lack of light, plants are not found at these depths. Scientists hypothesized that they could be a species of sponge or possibly drifting algae. A brittle star can be seen tightly wrapped around the center.
The frog fish, a Chaunax in the image above, is a type of angler fish. Squatting on the sea floor, it draws its prey close to its enormous mouth by wiggling a lure that extends out from between its eyes. It has modified fins that act like feet, allowing it to walk along the sea floor.
This rare anemone, possibly in the genus Alicia, was found along the Ahyi Seamount, a string of active submarine volcanoes. The anenome, seen here with tentacles retracted, extends its tentacles at night to hunt.
An unexpected discovery came in the form of a hydrothermal vent community in an area that had no known historic eruptions. The super heated water streaming from this vent contains minerals that sustain chemosynthetic bacteria, which in turn support communities of corals, snails, and shrimp.
Long-Spined Sea Urchin
Lizardfish typically dwell on the sea floor, where they lie in wait for their prey. Its long, flattened head filled with teeth give it its name.