No. Deep-sea fish do not explode when brought to the surface.
But some fish have an internal air sac that may expand when they rise. Because of the expansion of their air sac, there is a risk that their insides will be pushed out through their mouth, thereby killing them.
The Problem of Expanding Air Sacs
Some deep-sea fish have a swim bladder inside their body. The swim bladder is a gas-filled sac below the backbone that acts as an internal floatation device. It helps the fish maintain its depth in the ocean without much effort.
If the fish rises quickly from the deep, the pressure on its body from the surrounding water decreases quickly.
The pressure decreases on the swim bladder as well. This allows the gases inside the swim bladder to spread out and fill more space, so the swim bladder expands.
This is a bit like putting compressed air from a tank into a balloon. As the air leaves the tank, it is able to take up more space, and so it causes the balloon to expand.
When this happens in a fish, the expanding bladder gets so much larger that some of the fish’s insides are forced out through its mouth, and then it dies.
Avoiding the Problem
Some deep-sea fish have no swim bladder, or air-filled cavities of any sort, and so do not face that problem.
But they still wouldn’t be comfortable living anywhere except at the depths of the ocean. Even if a fish could survive the difference in pressure at the surface, the differences in temperature, light and other factors would pose serious challenges because deep-sea fish are not adapted to those conditions
Change in temperature is problem that deep-sea fish would face if they were to come near the surface.
- Because deep-sea fish are used to the colder temperature of 1 or 2 degrees Celsius, their bodies have trouble functioning in the warmer temperature near the surface.
- If they were brought up to warmer water, all the chemical reactions in their body would speed up and they would use all their energy very quickly.
- This would leave the deep-sea fish exhausted.
Who belongs to these big teeth?
Q: Do we have deep-sea creatures in Canada?
A: Yes, we do!
Canada is a country of coasts. It is bordered on three sides by oceans: the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Arctic. Parks Canada is working hard to preserve habitats along these coasts. This government agency has classified many coastal areas and waters into 29 distinct marine regions.
One region where deep-sea creatures can be found is called the Newfoundland Shelf. There, some places are nearly 800 metres deep!
The Newfoundland Shelf waters are an important habitat for the Atlantic Cod.
Find out more about the 29 marine regions on the Parks Canada web site.