tiny fanged fish australia
Penelope Wilson
Penelope Wilson
December 27, 2023 ·  3 min read

When Researchers Discovered an Underwater Volcanic Range it was Teeming With New Scary-looking Fish Species

If you think we’ve seen the end of scary-looking marine species, think again. Despite discovering dozens of new marine species every year, scientists  are certain that much of the ocean remains a mystery. Seventy percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water and the majority of it is unexplored. In fact, less than five percent of the ocean has been charted, leaving plenty of room for new life to be discovered.  

This is exactly what happened in 2015 when researchers with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) made some magnificent discoveries.

Scary-looking creatures 

Like many things, sometimes their discovery is neither planned or on purpose. In this case, the researchers were actually an area conducting a different mission – searching for nursery grounds of larval lobsters – when they came across an extinct volcanic range teeming with different, scary-looking fish. One of the fish discovered in this volcanic range is a tiny, black, weird-looking, scaleless creature with fangs [1].

Photo: © Copyright CSIRO Australia, July 13, 2015

But the scaleless blackfish wasn’t the only species discovered. Also found lurking around the area were the nightmarish chauliodontidae and the eel-like Idiacanthidae.

Photo: © Copyright CSIRO Australia, July 13, 2015

Eel-like Idiacanthidae was discovered in the underwater volcanic range. 

Photo: © Copyright CSIRO Australia, July 13, 2015

Scary-looking Chauliodontidae or viperfish, as it is commonly known as were also found in the extinct volcanic range.

Read: A Century Later, Baby Tortoises Have Been Discovered Thriving On the Galapagos Island of Pinzon

A new approach to studying juvenile fish

This discovery questions previous studies on juvenile fish that have postulated that larvae, once swept out to sea, are no longer existing. Contrary to these studies, this volcanic range has sustained these fish by creating eddies that provide a place for them to flourish. 

Professor Iain Suthers, the chief scientist for the voyage and marine biologist, admits that he was amazed to discover a nursery ground for these little creatures so far out to sea, especially at the time when they are not expected.

“We had thought fish only developed in coastal estuaries, and that once larvae were swept out to sea, that was the end of them. But in fact, these eddies are nursery grounds for commercial fisheries along the east coast of Australia,” explained Suthers [2].

The Ancient Volcanic Range

The extinct volcanic range discovered by the RV Investigator – an ocean explorer – has four calderas estimated to be over 50 million years old. This volcanic range, which is hidden under 5 kilometers of ocean, is located about 200 kilometers off the coast of Sydney. At the highest point, it rises above 700 meters off the ocean floor.

“This is the first time these volcanoes have been seen. It proves yet again that we know more about the topography of Mars than we do the sea bed in our own backyard,” Richard Arculus of the Australian National University told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation  [3].

The volcanoes are believed to have been created by a series of shifts in geological plates that caused the split between Australia and New Zealand.

More about RV Investigator

The RV Investigator is an Australian vessel that supports a wide range of marine research. The RV investigator, which was commissioned in 2014, can map out the ocean floor to any depth. It can also search for resources and collect weather data 20km into the atmosphere. The RV Investigator is capable of carrying out oceanographic, geoscience, biological, meteorological, and atmospheric research [4].

The Marine National Facility is operating this vessel on behalf of Australia.

  1. Volcanic discoveries create Sydney’s hottest new suburb. CSIRO. https://blog.csiro.au/sydneys-far-east-is-so-hot-right-now/. Accessed 05-02-2020.
  2. Newly discovered underwater volcanic range is teeming with bizarre, tiny fanged fish. MNN. Bryan Nelson. https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/stories/newly-discovered-underwater-volcanic-range-teeming-bizarre-tiny-fanged-fish. Accessed 05-02-2020.
  3. Ancient underwater volcanic range may explain why Australia and New Zealand separated. Independent. Roger Maynard. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/australasia/ancient-underwater-volcanic-range-may-explain-why-australia-and-new-zealand-separated-10386393.html. Accessed 05-02-2020.
  4. Explainer: the RV Investigator’s role in marine science. The Conversation. Toni Moate. https://theconversation.com/amp/explainer-the-rv-investigators-role-in-marine-science-35239. Accessed 05-02-2020.
  5. RV Investigator – Atmospheric Composition & Chemistry. CSIRO. Admin. https://research.csiro.au/acc/capabilities/rv-investigator/. Accessed 05-02-2020.