Researchers from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland discovered this new realm of deep-sea diversity with a remotely-operated camera that took the crushing dive down the 25,000 foot (7,600 meter) trench.
Expecting to see the ocean's most popular deep-sea fish, the grenadier, researchers were surprised when the fish was absent, with cusk eels and bright red pawns being the most prominent marine life visible. Along with these animals were spotted eel pouts, arrow-tooth eels and thousands of smaller crustaceans. Some of the smaller crustaceans were collected and brought back to the surface for study.
"What we found was an entirely different deep-water fish community," expedition leader Alan Jamieson, a marine biologist at the University of Aberdeen told livescience. "Fish were surprisingly few in number and low in diversity and not at all what we expected."
The expedition took 27 dives, all between the depths of 6,500 to 23,000 feet. The eels and pawns that they found are not commonly creatures found in trenches. Using unmanned lander fitted cameras, they were able to discover information about the ecology of this trench that has never before been discovered.
"We're starting to find out that what happens at one trench doesn't necessarily represent what happens in all the trenches," Jamieson told the BBC.
Despite its variation from the norm, the New Hebrides trench was not as populated as other trenches, with a less varied marine life.
"The big difference between this trench, and others that we have studied, is that the New Hebrides Trench lies underneath tropical, and therefore less productive, waters," Thom Linley, also a marine biologist at the University of Aberdeen, said in the statement. "The waters over a trench are what 'feeds' the deep sea community and in this case it appears that the prawns and cusk eels are specialists in low food environments."
The researched think that the reason that the ecology of this trench differs from the norm is caused by the nutrient rich ocean above it. There is not a lot happening on the surface, making food more scarce. This explains the lack of grenadiers, which require large amounts of food and the presence of cusk eels, who are good at scavenging.
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