Mystery Of ‘Hoof Prints’ At The Bottom Of The Sea May Finally Be Solved

By Abdul Rafay in Nature On 21st October 2023
advertisement

It looks like the mystery surrounding some "hoof-shaped" traces found on the ocean floor may have finally been answered.

advertisement
Credit: Deep Sea Research

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) of New Zealand originally discovered the markings, which are located off its coast, back in 2013.

advertisement

At 450 meters deep, a survey carried out on an underwater ridge turned up a scattering of what appeared to be hoof prints. Then, probably not a horse.

advertisement
Follow On Google News

It hasn't been evident for the past ten years what produced the markings, but researchers now believe they know why.

advertisement
Credit: Deep Sea Research

Marine biologist Sadie Mills from NIWA said: "NIWA uses a technology called the Deep Towed Imaging System (DTIS) to allow us to see the seafloor in stunning detail.”

advertisement

"When our people review this footage, they often see markings in the sediment, but unfortunately, most of them are unknown to science and we can only guess what might have made them, let alone find convincing proof."

Scientists believe they have figured out what caused these specific marks, though.

advertisement
Follow On Twitter

The mystery of the past ten years has now been solved by a new study.

advertisement
Credit: Deep Sea Research

The patterns, according to scientists, seem to match the mouth shape of a kind of fish known as deep-sea grenadiers or rattail fish precisely.

advertisement

From what the researchers can tell, the markings are probably "bite marks" left by the fish biting into the mud in search of food.

Mills said: "It is so cool to finally have the validation that what we saw on the video was actually rattails feeding in the mud.”

advertisement

"It's like getting a nice reward at the end of many years of watching DTIS footage."

advertisement

Stevens added: "The reason we could point to a specific species is because of their unique head features – these types of rattails have a long snout and an extendable mouth on the underside of their head that allow them to feed off the seafloor, something that other species do not.”

advertisement

"I had a hunch this might work but I was really surprised how well the head profile images matched the impressions."

Since this is some of the only material known to exist illustrating the eating habits of grenadiers, the discovery is all the more intriguing.

advertisement

The fish often search for food at such extreme depths that it is "rarely if ever, encountered" to see their bite marks.

In addition to unraveling the enigma of the "hoof prints," the researchers also reported not being aware of any recorded evidence of the natural foraging behavior of this specific breed. 

advertisement

This provides an intriguing new perspective on the fish's dietary preferences.

The "hoof-shaped" markings, which had baffled scientists for so long, now offer a valuable glimpse into the world of deep-sea grenadiers.