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New monstrous creatures from the Deep found


Researchers trawling the Tasman Sea have dredged up a veritable freak show of bizarre deep-sea creatures, including hundreds of rare and new species.

Deep-sea sharks, stingrays, rattail fishes and invertebrates (creatures without backbones) are among species discovered, while blobfish, prickly dogfish, giant sea spiders and other things not on a fish'n'chip menu were also caught in the nets.

Scientists on the month-long Australian/New Zealand voyage, on the research ship Tangaroa, also found extinct volcanoes as they mapped the sea floor during the 10,000-kilometre trip.

"We know so little about the deep sea (but) two-thirds of the planet is ocean, and most of it is deep sea," said researcher Mark Norman, from Museum Victoria.

Five of the 18 scientists who took part in the $2 million voyage, jointly funded by the Australian and New Zealand governments, announced their discoveries at the museum last week. Their grotesque finds are undergoing quarantine checks.


One creature, the fangtooth, has teeth longer than its head. To avoid piercing its own brain when it shuts its mouth, the teeth fit into opposing sockets. The viperfish has a hinged head so it can cram in food, and the jowl-cheeked coffinfish has a glowing lure on its head to attract prey.

Museum Victoria curator Tom O'Hara said the fangtooth had his vote for ugliest creature. "They look like something out of a Frankenstein movie," he said.

Living conditions beneath kilometres of water are brutal - the water pressure is hundreds of times greater than at the surface, and it is very dark.

Dr O'Hara said many of the creatures' features had evolved as ways of avoiding predators and attracting prey.

The researchers also found a huge fossilised tooth of an extinct shark known as a megalodon, which was twice the size of a white pointer. The tooth had been lying on the sea floor for millions of years before a deep-sea bottom sled found it.

In total, 500 species of fish and 1300 of invertebrates were found. Categorisation, including that of more than 100 new species and the rare finds, will take until the end of the year.


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