It is largely unknown how living organisms-especially vertebrates-survive and thrive in the coldness, darkness and high pressures of the hadal zone. Here, we describe the unique morphology and genome of Pseudoliparis swirei-a recently described snailfish species living below a depth of 6,000?m in the Mariana Trench. Unlike closely related shallow sea species, P. swirei has transparent, unpigmented skin and scales, thin and incompletely ossified bones, an inflated stomach and a non-closed skull. Phylogenetic analyses show that P. swirei diverged from a close relative living near the sea surface about 20?million?years ago and has abundant genetic diversity. Genomic analyses reveal that: (1) the bone Gla protein (bglap) gene has a frameshift mutation that may cause early termination of cartilage calcification; (2) cell membrane fluidity and transport protein activity in P. swirei may have been enhanced by changes in protein sequences and gene expansion; and (3) the stability of its proteins may have been increased by critical mutations in the trimethylamine N-oxide-synthesizing enzyme and hsp90 chaperone protein. Our results provide insights into the morphological, physiological and molecular evolution of hadal vertebrates.
Journal: Nature ecology & evolution