The Mariana Trench is one of the deepest parts of the ocean. As such, it is extremely difficult to explore. However, researchers have taken on the challenge of enabling exploration through the use of remote-operated vehicles such as the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Deep Discoverer.
Some of their discoveries include a vast array of benthic species—that is, those that occupy the deepest parts of the ocean. By using ROVs like Deep Discoverer, scientists are constantly learning more about the species living in these zones and the behavior of those creatures.
One of the newest discoveries is live video of a stylodactylid shrimp (Bathystylodactylus bathyalis), pictured above, feeding. Scientists captured the video at the amazing depth of 4,826 meters (15,833 feet, or almost three miles).
And its feeding habits are unusual for shrimp. Unlike most shrimp, the stylodactylid is a filter feeder. The scientists watched the shrimp as it raised its back legs and beginning to use the front ones to form what seemed to them to be a “filter basket,” capturing particles as they moved by in the ocean’s currents.
Other species of shrimp that live in shallower waters are mostly bottom feeders, using their limbs to bring food to their mouths piece by piece rather than filtering the water passing by.
Previously, the only evidence researchers had for the existence of the stylodactylid was in the form of a single broken specimen found in the Coral Sea, and they had never before observed it feeding.
Deep Discoverer is set to return to the Mariana Trench in 2017, which means there may be more opportunities not just to see other stylodactylid shrimp and perhaps observe social behavior, but possibly to discover more previously unknown species as well.