CT scan of the Atacama snailfish
CT scan of the Atacama snailfish

Three new species of fish, aptly named Pink, Purple and Blue for their coloring, have been found at the bottom of one of the deepest parts of the Pacific Ocean.

The fish belong to the snailfish (Liparidae) family, with bulbous heads, translucent, ribbon-like bodies and no scales. They were found in the Atacama Trench off the west coast of Chile and Peru at a depth of nearly 8,000 meters. Their unusual bodies are designed to withstand frigid temperatures and extreme pressure.

"Without the extreme pressure and cold to support their bodies, they are extremely fragile and melt rapidly when brought to the surface," Thomas Linley, a scientist with Britain's Newcastle University, wrote in a statement released Monday. Linley led the team of 40 scientists from 17 countries that made the discovery.

The research captured video of the fish in their environment. At least one specimen was brought to the surface alive for further study.

More than 100 species of snailfish exist all over the world. Scientists believe there are many more left to be discovered, like the trio found at Atacama.

"There is something about the snailfish that allows them to adapt to living very deep. Beyond the reach of other fish, they are free of competitors and predators," Linley said in the statement.

From the video shot by the Newcastle team, Linley said it was clear "there are lots of invertebrate prey down there, and the snailfish are the top predator. They seem to be quite active and look very well-fed." 

Pink, Purple and Blue will receive more scientific names when written about in academic papers.