Observed at a staggering depth of more than 8,000 feet below the surface of the ocean, scientists think they may have found a new species.
The small wriggling creature is a snailfish and comes from the family Liparidae. For having been found at the depths of the ocean, the snailfish is unexpectedly cute, more resembling a small minnow than one of the ocean's deep creatures.
Snailfish is a broad term for a large category of fish encompassing 350 species. Characteristically, they're recognisable from their large eyes and heads that taper into small, slender bodies.
Initially spotted on July 28, the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research released footage on August 2 of what they believe is a new snailfish species.
In narrated video, a member of the research team comments on the find, saying in surprise, "Nobody on Earth has seen this fish before."
Ghostly deep-sea fish discovered. Footage from NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research
As a group snailfish are one of the most widespread fish in the world and exist at all levels of ocean depth. A snailfish stunned scientists in 2014 when it was found 8,143 metres, more than five miles, below the sea, setting the record for the world's deepest known living fish. Snailfish are estimated to withstand pressure equivalent to 1,600 elephants standing on the roof of a small car.
The researchers said the new find was "totally new and totally unexpected."
It was one of many species observed during an underwater expedition by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ship Okeanos Explorer. Setting sail from Honolulu, the expedition surveyed deep water surrounding the Jonston Atoll unit of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, a region expanded under the Obama administration to become the largest marine reserve in the world.
Now that the ocean expedition has concluded, the team will spend the coming weeks processing, analysing, and summarising the data collected.
More than 99 percent of the atoll region of the reserve is deep water, a region that scientists still know little about.
Header Image: Ghostly deep-sea fish discovered. Picture from footage by NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research