At 36,000 feet below sea level, it’s perpetually dark, freezing cold, and there’s enough pressure to liquefy human bones. Welcome to the Mariana Trench, the deepest spot on Earth.
Even in one of the most inhospitable places on our planet, certain life thrives.
Researchers announced on Sunday that bacteria live in booming communities, feeding on the remains of dead animals, algae, and other microbes.
Prior explorations of the Mariana Trench, including James Cameron’s recent manned exploration of the trench and a 2011 expedition by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, have revealed that other, larger deep-sea species manage to survive at unimaginable depths.
Although there’s an endless number of creatures waiting to be discovered since only a very small fraction of the sea floor has been explored, here’s a look at what scientists have found so far.
Giant, single-celled Xenophyophores: The sponge-like animals were found in 2011 at a depth of 6.6 miles by footage from National Geographic's Dropcams. The organisms are about four inches long.
Deep-sea microbial mats: Clumps of microorganisms were found in samples collected during James Cameron's mission to the bottom of the trench in 2012.
Amphipods: Seven-inch-long crustaceans that look like shrimp were found in the deepest part of the trench, called Challenger Deep.
Sea cucumbers: These relatives of starfish were recently found to exist in large numbers on the deep sea floor. The vacuum cleaners of the ocean survive by sucking up mud that contains small organic particles.
Snailfish: The deepest fish in the ocean trenches were found feeding at the bottom of the Pacific at around 8,000 feet in 2008.
Jellyfish: The deepest-known jellyfish was photographed by National Geographic's Dropcams, though none of these species have ever been collected.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.