Mariana Trench Exploration Finds More Weird New Underwater Species


The expedition photographed a deepwater sea star called Cheiraster; the bulbous thing on its arm is actually an extension from within the sea star itself, likely caused by a parasitic barnacle that entered its body. NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research
The expedition photographed a deepwater sea star called Cheiraster; the bulbous thing on its arm is actually an extension from within the sea star itself, likely caused by a parasitic barnacle that entered its body. NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

It's a fact that's worth repeating: we've sent more people to walk on the moon than we've sent to explore the deepest part of our oceans. But it's easier to prepare for the lack of atmospheric pressure in space than it is the crushing pressure under miles and miles of water.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been poking around the deep waters of the Mariana Trench, the deepest point on Earth, this year with the Okeanos Explorer. The repurposed Navy surveillance vessel is outfitted with advanced underwater probes, cameras and sensors.

At its deepest point, the floor of the Mariana Trench, located in the Pacific Ocean, is 36,037 feet (10,984 meters) below sea level. While the latest expedition didn't explore that spot — known as Challenger Deep — it did investigate other rarely visited areas of the trench.

When the NOAA expedition launched earlier this year, the scientists quickly discovered some pretty cool animals deep underwater, including blind lobsters, anemones living atop hermit crabs and glowing jellyfish. The third leg of the exploration just wrapped up, so it seems like the perfect time to check in on some of the interesting discoveries and weird creatures spotted. Check out some of the pictures below:

A rare slit shell snail spotted by the expedition is likely a new species.
A rare slit shell snail spotted by the expedition is likely a new species.
NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research
An unknown sponge spotted deep underwater; scientists speculate that the white spots may be embryonic sponges.
An unknown sponge spotted deep underwater; scientists speculate that the white spots may be embryonic sponges.
NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research
This hydromedusa was spotted at midwater levels in the water column above a newly discovered "petit-spot" volcano.
This hydromedusa was spotted at midwater levels in the water column above a newly discovered "petit-spot" volcano.
NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research
This acorn worm was spotted on the sea floor in a part of the Trench called Twin Peaks.
This acorn worm was spotted on the sea floor in a part of the Trench called Twin Peaks.
NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research
This cusk eel has an unusually shaped head, and may be a new species.
This cusk eel has an unusually shaped head, and may be a new species.
NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research
This tiny octopus was spotted hiding behind the stalks of a crinoid, a marine animal that looks more like a fern that can walk.
This tiny octopus was spotted hiding behind the stalks of a crinoid, a marine animal that looks more like a fern that can walk.
NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research
Spotting a long-tail red snapper like this one near the sea floor was one of the goals of the current expedition.
Spotting a long-tail red snapper like this one near the sea floor was one of the goals of the current expedition.
NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

And to wrap up, let's check out this video of the expedition's first fish sighting. Spotting a fish at these depths is cool in and of itself, but the scientists get particularly excited because this is the first time a fish of this eel-like species has ever been seen alive: