The Depths Fish Will Go

27 July 2011

Pioneering findings, on the living animals from some of the deepest points of the world's oceans, made by the University of Aberdeen's Oceanlab, will be the subject of an illustrated talk at 7pm on Thursday 28 July at Aberdeen Art Gallery, Schoolhill.

The talk by Oceanlab director Professor Monty Priede is part of the Discovery Gallery Series, organised by Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums and the University of Aberdeen, to coincide with the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011 exhibition currently on show at the gallery until next month [Saturday 20 August].

Just over 50 years ago Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard designed a submarine to take him to the bottom of the sea. Upon reaching depths of more than 10,916 metres Piccard claimed to have seen a flatfish and a shrimp although this was later disputed by marine biologists who claimed fish could never survive such pressures.

Now remotely operated unmanned vehicles travel to the oceans' depths capturing images of marine life which are furthering our understanding of what occupies the deep.

The University of Aberdeen's Oceanlab are world leaders at creating this type of technology and their images of living animals from some of the world's deepest points have revealed species and behaviour never seen before.

Professor Priede said: "Many people think that life started at the ocean depths and these fish then evolved so they could crawl out of the sea and onto land.

"However while fish have occupied the world's oceans for at least 400 million years it is only in the last 70 million years they have occupied the deep.

"It was only when dinosaurs became extinct and the global climate changed putting oxygen into the deep that there was a race among fish to colonise it.

"My talk will touch upon fish evolution and I will also show some of the images of animals that we have obtained from the deepest parts of the oceans using Oceanlab technology."

In 2008 Oceanlab scientists filming in one of the world's deepest ocean trenches found groups of highly sociable snailfish swarming over their bait 7700 metres beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean. This was the first time cameras had been sent to this depth.

In 2009 Oceanlab researchers were part of an international research cruise that successfully photographed the deepest fish in the southern hemisphere at 7561 metres deep in the Kermadec Trench, just north east of New Zealand.

Three years ago scientists from Oceanlab also identified six new species of fish during a research trip exploring the darkest depths of the Southern Indian Ocean. Professor Priede had the honour of having one of these named after him - a pink eelpout which is now know as Pachycara priedei

Tickets for Professor Priede's talk cost £4 (£3 concessions) and can be booked in person at the Art Gallery Shop or by telephoning (01224) 523695.