The spotlight is shining once again on the deepest ecosystems in the ocean—Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench (map) and the New Britain Trench near Papua New Guinea. At a presentation today at the American Geophysical Union’s conference in San Francisco, attendees got a glimpse into these mysterious ecosystems nearly 7 miles (11 kilometers) down, the former visited by filmmaker James Cameron during a historic dive earlier this year.
Microbiologist Douglas Bartlett with the University of California, San Diego described crustaceans called amphipods—oceanic cousins to pill bugs—that were collected from the New Britain Trench and grow to enormous sizes five miles (eight kilometers) down. Normally less than an inch (one to two centimeters) long in other deep-sea areas, the amphipods collected on the expedition measured 7 inches (17 centimeters). (Related: “Deep-Sea, Shrimp-like Creatures Survive by Eating Wood.”)