Scientists stumbled onto toothy deep-sea “top predator,” and named it after elite sumo wrestlers

A sunny winter day in 2016 discovered marine biologist Yoshihiro Fujiwara anchored off the coast of central Japan, measuring pudgy cusk eels, when a hubbub abruptly erupted aboard ship. The crew of the Shonan Maru had simply landed an enormous, bizarre-looking fish.

“Wow! We bought a coelacanth!” they joked as they hauled up a specimen so massive it evoked the legendary “dwelling fossil” species discovered solely in Africa and Indonesia.

Fujiwara, whose specialty is “whale fall” communities — the wealthy ecosystems that spring up round and feed off whale carcasses — was equal elements thrilled and skeptical.

“It was thrilling,” he advised CBS Information. “However it is a very well-studied bay.” 

Certainly it’s. Researchers have been constructing a taxonomy of specimens from Suruga, Japan’s deepest bay, for the reason that nineteenth century.

The world can also be one of the vital closely fished on the planet. Certainly, Fujiwara thought, somebody had noticed this colossal creature earlier than.

Amazingly, nobody had. Fujiwara and his crew from the Japan Company for Marine-Earth Science and Expertise (JAMSTEC) cross-checked reference books and consulted with colleagues world wide earlier than concluding the spear-shaped, purple-hued creature from the deep was certainly a bonafide discovery.

Three extra specimens of the monster fish could be hooked that yr, rapidly preserved in formaldehyde or frozen for later perusal within the lab.

Dissection, CT-scans and different evaluation located the specimen throughout the alepocephalid household, a deep-sea species distributed worldwide and popularly often called “slickheads,” for his or her scale-free heads and gill covers. However not like its a lot smaller family, which common simply 14 inches in size, this was a beast: At 55 inches lengthy and 55 kilos, it had the dimensions and heft of a small youngster.

Fujiwara and his crew determined to call the brand new species “yokozuna slickhead,” after the highest rank in sumo wrestling.

“I could not consider it,” biologist Jan Yde Poulsen, a analysis affiliate with the Australian Museum and an authority on slickheads, advised CBS Information from his base in Denmark.

Poulsen, who co-authored a paper in January with the JAMSTEC crew on the yokozuna slickhead, was additionally doubtful when he acquired the primary picture from Fujiwara’s crew.

“It is a very grainy picture, nearly like while you see a photograph of the Loch Ness monster,” he mentioned. “The truth that you discover a new species that weighs 25 kilos is simply unbelievable.”

Regardless of its hostile deep sea, pitch-black habitat, the slickhead wasn’t simply large, it was brawny. Whereas different slickhead species gobble plankton and weak swimmers like jellyfish, DNA examination of the large fish’s abdomen contents confirmed it hunted different fish, maybe supplementing its food regimen by scavenging.

In contrast to the opposite 100-odd slickhead species recognized to the world, the yokozuna is a vigorous swimmer, presumably capable of cowl lengthy distances, as evidenced by a couple of seconds of uncommon video captured with a baited digicam at a depth of just about 8,500 toes.

The slickhead’s “broad gape” mouth homes a number of rows of enamel, conjuring up an extra-terrestrial monster. Fujiwara’s crew tried to depend the densely packed fangs and their strictly unofficial conclusion: “80 to 100” enamel in these jaws.

The bodily attributes, along with biochemical evaluation, recognized the yokozuna slickhead as an apex predator — the deep-sea model of a lion or killer whale.

“We have now so many dives worldwide,” Fujiwara mentioned. “However it’s uncommon to see a high predator.”

The well-endowed marine company owns a slew of subtle submersibles and different deep-sea exploration automobiles, “however these are very noisy and use vibrant gentle,” mentioned Fujiwara. “Most high predators are very energetic, so (they) can simply escape from our submersible.”

His crew decided that deploying specially-made lengthy strains — lengthy sufficient to succeed in the ocean flooring, outfitted with a whole bunch of mackerel-baited hooks — could be more practical, albeit time-consuming. It takes as much as 4 hours to deploy these ultra-long strains, that are left within the water in a single day. 

Whereas a whole bunch of recent fish species are recognized yearly, the difficult-to-access deep sea nonetheless holds many mysteries.

“We don’t know what’s down there,” Fujiwara mentioned.

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