The Mariana Trench — located in the Western Pacific near Guam — has been the focus of high-profile voyages to conquer Challenger Deep, the deepest place on Earth. This recent expedition to the Trenchonboard Research Vessel Falkor targeted multiple depths and found active thriving communities of animals. The expedition set many new records, including the deepest rock samples ever collected and the discovery of new fish species at the greatest depths ever recorded.
New species were discovered on this expedition that will provide insight into the physiological adaptations of animals to this high-pressure environment. This research is being conducted in the lab of Whitman College'sProfessor of Biology Paul Yancey. In the past, Yancey and his students, working on animals from moderate depths, discovered certain organic molecules that protect the cells of deep-sea animals from the effects of high pressure, which distorts proteins such as enzymes. These kinds of protective molecules are also being tested to treat human diseases that are caused by malformed proteins, such as cystic fibrosis. Additionally, his work on protective molecules in fishes predicted that fish would not be able to live below about 8,200 meters (27,060 feet). Prior to this expedition, the deepest documented fish was from 7,700 meters (25,410 feet).
The expedition also broke several records for the deepest living fish either caught or seen on video. Setting the record at 8,143 meters, (26,872 feet) was a completely unknown variety of snail fish, which stunned scientists when it was filmed several times during sea floor experiments. The white translucent fish had broad wing-like fins and an eel-like tail, and slowly glided over the bottom."
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