A 2002 photo provided by NOAA Fisheries/Alaska Fisheries Science Center and taken during the second leg of the Aleutian Islands survey shows a snailfish. (James Orr/NOAA Fisheries/Alaska Fisheries Science Center via AP)
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Federal biologist Jay Orr never knows what's going to come up in nets lowered to the ocean floor off Alaska's remote Aleutian Islands, which separate the Bering Sea from the rest of the Pacific Ocean.With co-authors, Orr has discovered 14 kinds of new snailfish, a creature that can be found in tide pools but also in the deepest parts of the ocean.The scientists put down a 131-foot trawl net that captures whatever is along the ocean bottom.Fifteen years ago, research biologist Michael Martin suggested a small modification: a net just 2 to 3 feet wide at the front of the trawl net.On one of the first hauls, the small net returned with a variety of small, soft-bodied fish, including snailfish, that likely would have fallen out or gotten mashed in the main net. Orr took a look and knew they had found something different.Orr identified some new varieties that did not have a sucking disc.Orr helped distinguish the northern rock sole, which spawns and grows differently than other rock sole.
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