Biologists from NIWA and the University of Aberdeen used remotely-operated equipment to film and catch samples of the swarms of 40cm-long bright red prawns and cusk eels that dominate the 7200m-deep New Hebrides Trench in the South Pacific.
NIWA fisheries scientist Pete McMillan said it was very difficult to sample in deep water, and it was the first time scientists had caught the prawns and eels that live in the trench.
“These are two big achievements,” he told NZ Newswire.
“When you see these things on a camera you can have a guess at identifying them. The real test is catching them and looking at them up close.”
The eels and prawns are present at other trenches, but are less conspicuous.
Mr McMillan said the prawns’ red colour was “incredible” and made them effectively invisible in the deep ocean.
“Red is a safe colour in the deep, because it is effectively black because of the penetration of red light in water. Red is one of the first colours [in the spectrum] to go.”