Changing Planet

Pictures: Bizarre Eels, Fish Found off New Zealand

In a recent voyage to one of the deepest parts of the Pacific Ocean, scientists have turned up something fishy: Numerous rare species of fish, as well as some new to science—including the oddly named eelpout. (Related pictures: “Odd Sea Creatures Found at Volcanoes, Canyons.”)

A joint expedition between the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), a New Zealand ocean-research company, and the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, set out on the RV Kaharoa to survey the seafloor of the southwestern Pacific.

The boat traveled to the Kermadec Islands (map), located halfway between New Zealand’s North Island and the country of Tonga. The islands are located near the Kermadec Trench, which plunges over 32,963 feet (10,047 meters) below the ocean’s surface and is one of the deepest points on Earth.

Surveying life so far beneath the surface is no easy task. In this expedition, the scientists used a combination of baited fish traps and cameras that they let fall to the ocean floor. Over seven days, the scientists collected over a hundred specimens and took more than 6,500 photos.

“The amount of data recovered during the survey was considerable. A lot can be learnt and achieved by using fairly basic equipment in the deep sea,” voyage leader Alan Jamieson of the University of Aberdeen said in a statement.

Eelpouts and Rattails

Besides the eelpout—a long, eel-like fish that frequently lives at the bottom of the ocean—the researchers also found fish that hadn’t been known to live in this area of the Pacific, as well as a fish that hadn’t been seen in the area in a century.

For instance, first caught off New Zealand in the 1870s, the cosmopolitan rattail (Coryphaenoides armatus) has been spotted at a number of deep-ocean sites around the world, but researchers hadn’t seen it near New Zealand since its initial discovery. (Test your knowledge of the ocean’s extremes.)

“A voyage such as this is testament to how feasible scientific research in the deep sea has become. It is no longer the inaccessible, out-of-reach, part of the world it once was,” Jamieson said in a statement.

“The technological challenges of the past no longer exist, and shouldn’t limit our responsibility to learn about and understand the deep sea to help ensure the long term health of the deep oceans, one of the largest environments on earth.”

In the Shadow of a Supergiant?

The scientists also surveyed a large number of amphipods, a type of crustacean that lacks a hard outer shell. In 2012 in the same area, the team discovered a “supergiant” amphipod that was ten times larger than other known species.

In an interview with the BBC, Jamieson described it as “a bit like finding a foot-long cockroach.” (See more pictures of the supergiant amphipod).

“The results from this deep exploration are giving us a much better understanding of biodiversity in the deep sea around New Zealand, and enable us to better assess potential risks to the ecosystem from future climate change and even human activities which may include seabed mining,” NIWA’s principal scientist Malcolm Clark said in a statement.

Samples of the specimens will be housed at Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum in Wellington.

Carrie is a freelance science writer living in Virginia. When she's not writing about cool critters, she's spending time outside, drinking coffee, or knitting. You can visit her website at
  • STaiX

    Bizarre,hope I won’t fish it in our seas

  • John Ryan

    There is so many hidden species out there waiting to be discover…

  • Victoria

    I am amazed that these “scientist” were so insensitive to the health of the creatures. Notice they have sun glasses on to protect them form the bright sun, yet these fish (that have never seen the light of day in their life’s) are being held up as in the sun. Very sad to see.

  • Amira Ferjani


  • Rommy

    Very cool, hope no one tries to catch them.

  • jeanslinp

    This thing is so interesting~

  • Mikey Mike and the Funky Bunch

    The fish do not need protection because they are dead. You can’t haul them up from the depths and expect them to survive. The pressure difference they’ve adapted to is too much different from the surface. That’s why in all the other slides they are obviously dead. They are being harvested for science by scientists, so save the righteous indignation.

  • your mom

    wonder what they taste like 🙂

  • sabrina

    that fish looks so weird.
    but it’s awesome.
    it’s so special

  • jamie L.

    wow. a whole new discovery.. cool. but totally WEIRD!

  • Bobby Jo Hickey

    Very interesting!

  • squirrel looks like preston

    looks like my pet squirrel

  • noah


  • Manuel

    I’d bet the Chinese will eat it!

  • Mark

    Can’t believe the comments about insensitive scientists. How else are they meant to study them….by riding a magical seahorse to the bottom of the ocean.

    It’s not like they filled their boat with them. Perhaps the detractors would prefer we stay in eternal ignorance of the species on the earth.

  • jason

    Wow that’s intresting what more can we expect from the sea hmmmm

  • mightymeaty

    I wonder what it taste like 🙂

  • maria angela

    Adorei a pesquisa ,estou curiosa e impressionada* obrigada*.

  • Sharon

    @ Victoria, New York. The fish are dead, Victoria. They would not survive coming to the surface.

  • SWEE

    Lord, the animal kingdom is such an amazing thing. right now, humans probably only know around 25% of the whole kingdom. Amazing, amazing!

  • mario

    wonder if they are good eating

  • Mad Max

    I’m with Victoria, to the extent as to WHY these scientists feel they had to haul these fish up to the surface in the first place? Obviously it would be very painful for the fish, and as “Mikey” pointed out, would have resulted in their death. A totally callous act. Pictures of them in their own environment should have be sufficient. But that’s humans for you – always presuming that whatever THEY do is OK … to hell with another sentient life form! Makes me sad to be one, sometimes …

  • Cody

    And…there goes the last family of their species that were all traveling together.

  • KoKo

    Give it to the Jap`s, they will eat it.

  • papajes

    it’s weird and actually existing only in films [in the past] . 🙂 now i want t o explore deep than the space.

  • Hanna

    Wow! Really interesting stuff, those eels and fish like creatures like so prehistoric and ancient. It’s interesting to see what kinds of beings reside underneath the waters surface!

  • Gary Wilson

    Victoria it’s lives not life’s.

  • danny schalkwijk

    scientists or not!!! the pic with them smiling with dead fish is out of place !!!!!!!!

  • Fernanda

    @danny schalkwijk

    yeah, because they are thrilled to have killed the fishes, not because they just discovered a new species… their eyes are shinning because of a dead creature, not because they ae looking at something they´ve never seen and how awsome it is…

    save the silly comments… for yourself

  • Larry

    The way to protect an animal from being eaten by people is to name them after vermin, pets or creepy things. That works on many would be consumers.

  • 2 Dog Don

    I can appreciate some of the commy pinko liberal comments about the way the fish were treated but I wonder do you wear leather shoes? Eat animal flesh or even plants that are known to communicate? Just asking?

  • Richard

    Ah, the uninformed will always be uninformed. Soon, they will call everything in the Ocean a protected species. Geez.

  • l. clarke

    I’m with the doomsayers. Photograph them ok but don’t kill the poor things. There’s enough of that going on with “domesticated” animals. Livestock being ill-treated and eaten and shelters euthanizing thousands, let’s get behind efforts to see anmals treated with respect.

  • Pedro

    Reading these comments is a sad reminder of how far we still have to go to become a truly civilised species:

    “commy pinko liberal”
    (you made a good point about leather shoes etc, why spoil it with intolerance?)

    The “japs” or “chinese” will eat it: Let’s not be too culturally self-righteous: most of us behave in accordance with the culture we were brought up in, and that is true regardless of whether we are western, anglo-saxon, American, Japanese or Chinese.

    And publicly nit-picking on someone’s spelling??

    Now you can all rail at me for being self-righteous, two “goody goody” and grump at me for using the wrong to, two too.

    • David Braun

      A very good comment. Thanks!

  • KAt

    this discousting iddiots – catch all famely ! national geografik – sacs ! its stupid and dicousting orgonisation of non proffwesional people !

  • George Clarke

    One of the odd long fish resembles the oarfish found in the North Atlantic usually in association with herring

  • M. Leybra

    “Funding for this voyage is primarily from the Marine Alliance for Science & Technology for Scotland (MASTS)… & a project funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).” OBVIOUSLY NEXT COMES INVASION & EXPLOITATION.

  • JRL

    Do fishes shed tears, hard to tell them bitches is always in the water.

  • Rik Cedestrom

    When it comes to bringing new information to the public, it appears that you are losing ground. Many of these posts are people with little or no understanding of biology or oceanography (those fish don’t survive the ascent from depth) and yet the same ignorant souls rave on self righteously about some odd animal rights issue? I won’t even comment on the racism. I am appalled by the low level on intellectual response of (some of) your readers. I guess the new school standards are finally kicking in..

  • Alex

    Survival of the fittest ! All species come to an end one way or another, so another species can take its place or will exist to take the other species place in line with survival !

  • Derek Colebrook

    Lets hope this fish remains in the sea forever !
    Not that that would stop the Japanese whaling industry from harvesting them !!

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