Antarctica is Earth’s southernmost continent, with 98 percent of the region covered in ice measuring an average of 2km in thickness. The frozen desert, which reaches -90C at times, has been of interest to scientists over the years. However, of the couple of thousand that reside there, few have ever ventured below the ice.
That changed when David Attenborough’s famous series Blue Planet 2 visited Antarctica to film their second episode.
Researchers working with the BBC series used a Triton submarine to head down to an area known as the “midnight zone” more than 1000 metres below the surface.
What they found was astounding.
In a layer of mud, up to a mile thick, they discovered a unique animal that had mutated itself over the years.
This fish has been living for so long here that its fins have changed into something more useful – feet
Sir David said in 2017: “The seabed may, at first, appear lifeless, but it is home to a unique cast of mud-dwellers.
“The sea toad – an ambush predator with an enormous mouth and infinite patience.
“This fish has been living for so long here that its fins have changed into something more useful – feet.
“They help it shuffle about on the sea floor.”
The sea toad belongs to a family of deep sea fish known as Chaunacidae, which can be found at depths of up to 2,460 metres.
They have large, globose bodies and short, compressed tails, and are covered with small, spiny scales.
This fish can grow up to 30cm in length and it mutilates its own dorsal fin to become a better predator.
It was not the first bizarre creature Sir David’s team uncovered, though.
They also uncovered incredible footage as they entered the “twilight zone” around 800 metres below the surface.
The programme revealed a strange, long creature floating through the water, that captured the interest of the team.
Sir David said: “The sunlight fades and the seas darken.
“Here in the Pacific, 200 metres down, we enter an alien world – the Twilight Zone – a sea of eternal gloom.
“There are strange creatures here – a pyrosome – a tube of jelly two metres long that dwarfs a visitor from above, an oceanic whitetip shark.”
Pyrosomes are free-floating colonial tunicates that grow up to 60ft in length.
They are made up of hundreds to thousands of individuals known as zooids, commonly known as “sea pickles”.
Sir David continued to describe the alien-like scene as he spotted more unusual creatures.
He added: “Only a tiny amount of light filters down this far.
“Survival here means making the most of every last glimmer.”
As the narrator noticed a nearby swordfish, he added: “This swordfish has eyes as big as tennis balls to help it see in the dusk.”
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