Giant single-celled organisms discovered deep within the Mariana Trench

The ocean depths have produced many a strange and wonderful thing — but the deeper you go, the stranger it gets. In the western Pacific's Mariana Trench — the very deepest spot in the world's oceans — scientists from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at U.C. San Diego have discovered one of the world's largest single cell organisms living deeper than was previously thought possible. The massive xenophyophores — a type of protozoa related to amoebas — are so large that they can easily be observed with the human eye, measuring up to 4" across.

While they'd been discovered previously around the five mile deep mark — still deep enough into the ocean to crush many living things with sheer undersea pressure — the new find proves that strange single-cell life exists even within the extreme conditions of the trench.

To plumb the depths of the trench, the researchers lowered what's known as a "dropcam" into the pitch-black ocean abyss. The dropcam is essentially a high resolution camera encased in a thick pressure-proof (and waterproof) glass sphere. These extremely primitive organisms can withstand eight tons of pressure per square inch — a record that most of their more highly evolved brethren in the animal kingdom can't hold a candle to.


This article originally appeared on Tecca

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