Fish Found Thriving In Nearly Oxygen-free Waters

Posted: Jan 20 2019, 2:11pm CST | by , Updated: Jan 20 2019, 2:14pm CST , in Latest Science News


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Fish Found Thriving in Nearly Oxygen-free Waters
Credit: MBARI

Deep under the Gulf of California, fish species have been discovered that live in extremely low-oxygen conditions.

Oxygen is essential for life on Earth. But recently marine biologists have discovered a large group of fish species thriving in a region where most marine life cannot survive. Several species of fish like Cusk eels, lollipop sharks and grenadiers are living in the dark depths of the Gulf of California where there is virtually no oxygen. The discovery could help scientists understand how other marine animals can adapt to warmer waters and other changes in the chemistry of the ocean.

In 2015, a team of researchers used a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) Doc Ricketts to survey deep ocean basins in the Gulf of California. They were particularly interested in animals that live in very low oxygen areas. The deep sea bottom of Gulf of California represents one of the most extreme low-oxygen environments in the world. Researchers discovered many species of fish scattered at the bottom of the ocean while conducting a series of dives at the depth of more than 3000 feet.

"I could hardly believe my eyes," said lead researcher Natalya Gallo from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. "We observed cusk eels, grenadiers, and lollipop sharks actively swimming around in areas where the oxygen concentration was less than one percent of typical surface oxygen concentrations. We were in a suboxic habitat, which should exclude fish, but instead there were hundreds of fish. I immediately knew this was something special that challenged our existing understanding of the limits of hypoxia (low-oxygen) tolerance."

Researchers suggest that two species of fish cusk eels and lollipop shark seemed to prefer low-oxygen areas over areas where oxygen is abundant and posses a remarkable ability to use this small amount of oxygen available in their environment.

"Many other types of fish are considered tolerant of low-oxygen conditions. But the fish in these parts of the Gulf are like the winners among a group of elite Olympic athletes." MBARI biologist Jim Barry, who led the research cruise, said.

Both cusk eels and lollipop sharks have large heads and vibrant gills with overall soft flabby bodies. However, researchers still don't know exactly how these fish are able to thrive under such harsh conditions.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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