Up to Five New Species Found in Vast Haul of Bizarre Creatures from Deep-Sea Abyss

1 Faceless Fish_Credit Asher Flatt+Marine National Facility
Researchers found examples of the "faceless" fish, a species of deep sea cusk eel with no-visible eyes and a mouth on the underside of its head. The image of this strange creature went viral across the world in 2017. Asher Flatt/Marine National Facility

A vast haul of more than 40,000 bizarre deep-sea creatures collected off Australia's east coast may contain up to five species of fish that are entirely new to science, according to researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO).

The various fish and invertebrate specimens were gathered from depths of up to 16,000 feet by the research ship Investigator during a month-long voyage in 2017.

Among the 42,700 animals are more than 100 different species, about 5 percent of which may be new species, say scientists from the CSIRO, an Australian Federal Government agency.

There were a number of bizarre finds, including examples of a bioluminescent cookie-cutter sharks, a hermaphrodite lizard fish, a "faceless fish"—which was rediscovered after being missing for more than a century—and a cousin of the blobfish—unofficial title-holder of the "world's ugliest animal," according to a campaign run by the Ugly Animal Preservation Society in 2013.

5 Lizard fish_Credit Museums Victoria+Marine National Facility
Lizard fish, an ambush predator from the deep ocean, have both male and female reproductive organs. Asher Flatt/Marine National Facility

The creatures have adapted to live in an extreme environment marked by very low temperatures and crushing pressures where virtually no light can penetrate.

Read more: Glow-in-the-dark sharks light up the ocean with tiny organs on their skin

"The abyss is the largest and deepest habitat on the planet, covering half the world's oceans and one third of Australia's territory, but it remains the most unexplored environment on Earth," Alastair Graham, from the CSIRO Australian National Fish Collection, said. "The survey collected some very rare and unusual species and represents one of the deepest collections of fishes from Australian waters."

4 Cookie cutter shark_Credit Rob Zugaro, Museums Victoria
A bioluminescent shark with neatly arranged serrated teeth shaped like a cookie-cutter. Rob Zugaro, Museums Victoria

Among the potential new species are three unknown types of eel and an eelpout, a family of ray-finned fish.

Many of the specimens are being examined by CSIRO researchers in order to classify them and confirm which represent new species.

3 Blob fish in a tray_Credit Museums Victoria+Marine National Facility
A blob fish, another ambush predator that lies very still on the bottom waiting for unsuspecting prey to pass by. Asher Flatt/Marine National Facility

John Pogonoski, a CSIRO scientist, said the voyage was "frontier science" that will significantly expand our knowledge of the deep-sea environment.

Very little is known about abyssal ocean zones—regions of the sea that remain in perpetual darkness—but there are potentially many more weird and wonderful species to be discovered, hidden in the deep.

2 Tripodfish_Credit Rob Zugaro, Museums Victoria
These iconic abyssal fishes, sometimes called spider-fishes, prop on the seafloor on their stilt-like fins and feed by extending their elongated pectoral fins forward "feeling" their prey as it drifts by. Rob Zugaro, Museums Victoria