Faceless Fish and 200 Years of Trash Found in World's First Survey of Deep Sea Abyss
The international crew on board The Investigator research vessel has pulled up some wonderfully bizarre specimens from a journey to the bottom of the sea, including a "faceless fish" that hasn't been seen since 1873.
The team, consisting of 40 scientists and support staff, are two weeks into a world's first exploration of the deep sea off Australia's western coast, in a mission called "Sampling the Abyss." The month-long expedition, led by Australia's Museums Victoria and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, aims to study abyss life at depths around 4,000 to 6,000 meters.
Chief scientist Tim O'Hara from Museums Victoria told AFP this area is "the most unexplored environment on earth."
"The data gathered on this trip will be crucial to understanding Australia's deep-sea habitats, their biodiversity and the ecological processes that sustain them," O'Hara said in a statement. "This will assist in its conservation and management and help to protect it from the impacts of climate change, pollution and other human activity."
So what kind of otherworldly creatures call the deepest parts of the ocean home?
Since the voyage began on May 15, the scientists have collected bright red spiky rock crabs, puffed-up coffinfish, blind sea spiders and deep sea eels, according to AFP.
"We've seen some awesome stuff," Di Bray from Museums Victoria told Australia's ABC News.
"On the video camera we saw a kind of chimaera that whizzed by—that's very, very rare in Australian waters," Bray continued. "We've seen a fish with photosensitive plates that sit on the top of its head, tripod fish that sit up on their fins and face into the current."
But Bray said the "highlight" was the faceless fish found off Jervis Bay at a depth of 4,000 meters.
"It's this fish with nostrils and a mouth and no face," she explained. "Apparently, it's got eyes way under the surface but really you can't see any eyes."
The last time this fish was caught was in the 1870s by the scientists onboard the HMS Challenger.
"So, it's not a new species, but it's still an incredibly exciting find, and we think ours is the largest one seen so far," a Blogging the Abyss post states. "Although very little is known about this strange fish without a face, it does have eyes—which are apparently visible well beneath the skin in smaller specimens. I doubt they'd be of much use though, so we've decided to call it the Faceless Cusk."
Blogging the Abyss: "It came from 4000 meters below the surface, where pressures are huge, the water is a mere 1⁰C, and the seafloor landscape is pretty barren!"John Pogonoski, CSIRO Australian National Fish Collection.
However, as SkyNews pointed out, there are plenty of other unusual specimens appearing at these depths.
"There's a lot of debris, even from the old steam ship days when coal was tossed over board," O'Hara said.
"We've seen PVC pipes and we've trawled up cans of paints," he continued. "It's quite amazing. We're in the middle of nowhere and still the sea floor has 200 years of rubbish on it."
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An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
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Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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