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神秘的盲“幽灵鱼”发现刚果河是世界上最深的河流

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2020年01月14日

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Mysterious blind 'ghost fish' reveals Congo to be the deepest river in the world

神秘的盲“幽灵鱼”发现刚果河是世界上最深的河流

The waters of the Congo River in Africa are some of the world's most mysterious. This is the river that inspired Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness"; it crosses the equator twice, cuts through the world's second largest rainforest, and its basin is home to some of the highest levels of biodiversity on the planet.

非洲的刚果河是世界上最神秘的水域之一。这条河启发了约瑟夫·康拉德的《黑暗之心》;它穿过赤道两次,穿过世界第二大雨林,其盆地是地球上生物多样性最高的地方之一。

And only just now have we discovered the true depth of this beguiling waterway.

直到现在,我们才发现这条迷人水道的真正深度。

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The Congo River is the deepest river in the world. (Photo: Bsm15 [CC BY-SA 3.0]/Wikimedia Commons Commons [CC 3.0 License])

It turns out, the Congo River is also the world's deepest. It has underwater worlds we never knew existed, and strange creatures lurking in its hidden abysses.

事实证明,刚果河也是世界上最深的河流。它有我们从来不知道存在过的海底世界,还有隐藏在它的深渊里的奇怪的动物。

The first hints at just how deep this river ran came a few years ago, when peculiar ghost-white fish began washing up on the Congo's lower shores. These fish looked like cave fish; they were blind, with pale-bleach skin, like organisms adapted to life in dark caverns concealed from the light for millennia. But this was a roaring river, and there were no caves around from where these fish could have emerged.

关于这条河到底有多深,最早的迹象出现在几年前,当时奇怪的幽灵鱼开始在刚果的低海岸上涌上来。这些鱼看起来像洞穴鱼;他们双目失明,皮肤呈淡白色,就像适应了黑暗洞穴生活的有机体,几千年来一直隐藏在光线下。但这是一条咆哮的河流,周围没有洞穴可以让这些鱼出现。

Melanie Stiassny, an ichthyologist at the American Museum of Natural History, was among the first scientists on the scene. She noticed a clue: these fish would die almost immediately upon flopping ashore, with bubbles seeming to fizz from beneath their skin and from their gills, reports Cosmos.

美国自然历史博物馆的鱼类学家梅勒妮·斯蒂亚斯尼是第一批到达现场的科学家之一。她注意到一个线索:这些鱼几乎一上岸就会立即死去,皮肤下和鳃上的气泡似乎在嘶嘶作响,Cosmos报道。

Stiassny recognized the symptoms. These blind ghosts were suffering from the bends.

斯蒂亚斯尼意识到了这些症状。这些盲鱼患了减压病。

“This animal was dying from catastrophic decompression syndrome,” she said.

“这种动物死于灾难性的减压综合症,”她说。

Decompression syndrome is the same thing that happens to human divers when they experience a rapid pressure change, such as when a diver ascends from the depths too quickly. For this fish to have experienced this condition, it too would have had to rise rapidly from some fathomless depth.

减压综合症和人类潜水员经历压力急剧变化时发生的情况是一样的,比如潜水员从深处上升的速度过快。这条鱼要经历这种情况,也必须从一个深不可测的深度迅速地浮上来。

“This fish dying in my hand asked the question, ‘Could there be deep water here?’”

“这条死在我手里的鱼提出了一个问题,‘这里会有深水吗?’”

So Stiassny gathered a group of whitewater kayakers, armed with depth-measuring equipment, for an expedition to map the unknown deepness of this most mysterious of rivers. What they found was astonishing.

因此,斯蒂亚斯尼召集了一群皮划艇漂流者,配备了深度测量设备,准备进行一次探险,绘制这条最神秘河流的未知深度地图。他们的发现令人震惊。

The Congo has obscure pockets that aren't just deep, they're immensely deep. The team measured certain parts that were over 700 feet deep, in fact. And that's not all. Doppler current profilers showed that some of these pockets contain their own hidden worlds, cut off from the rest of the world by strong ascending and descending currents and powerful swirling eddies. These currents essentially act as boundaries that can't be crossed, allowing the creatures within them to evolve separately from their free-swimming brethren.

刚果有一些不为人知的地方,它们不仅深,而且不可思议的深。事实上,研究小组测量了超过700英尺深的部分。这还不是全部。多普勒洋流剖面仪显示,这些口袋中有一些隐藏着自己的世界,它们被强大的上升和下降洋流以及强大的漩涡与世界的其他部分隔开。这些洋流本质上充当着不可逾越的边界,允许它们内部的生物与自由游动的同类分开进化。

“They are dividing up populations and preventing them from interbreeding at a very fine geographical scale,” said Stiassny. “So you can see why there’s a lot of [diversity].”

“它们正在分割种群,防止它们在非常精细的地理范围内进行杂交,”斯蒂亚斯尼说。“所以你可以看到为什么会有这么多(多样性)。”

The blind ghost fish were coming from one of these deep cave-like pockets, beyond the glare of the equatorial sunlight. They had likely escaped their pitch-black underworld after being swept up in a strong current and brought to the surface in a rapid instant. If only they had eyes to see, what light-drenched wonder they might have gazed upon before succumbing to the pressure change.

这些看不见的幽灵鱼是从这些洞穴似的深口袋里钻出来的,在赤道耀眼的阳光照射不到的地方。他们很可能是在被一股强大的水流冲到地面后,在瞬间被带到地面上来的。要是他们能看得见,在屈服于压力的变化之前,他们会看到多么透光的奇迹。

The discovery was a wake-up call for Stiassny, a reminder that there might be whole new realms to uncover beneath the stirring waters of the Congo. There might be species there that we've never seen before, trapped for generations by the river's vortices.

这一发现为斯蒂亚斯尼敲响了警钟,提醒他在刚果激荡的水面下可能有全新的领域有待发现。那里可能有我们从未见过的物种,被河流的漩涡困住了好几代。

She noted that the Lower Congo is an unexplored natural laboratory for studying how species evolve. It's a domain where you don't need actual caves to harbor blind cave fish, where adaptations to obscure niches might turn up bizarre traits, and where biological mysteries unveil themselves to reveal hidden provinces of ghostly critters.

她指出,刚果河下是一个未被探索的自然实验室,用于研究物种是如何进化的。在这个领域里,你不需要真正的洞穴来庇护盲目的洞穴鱼,适应隐藏的壁龛可能会出现奇怪的特征,生物奥秘揭示自己,揭示幽灵般的生物隐藏的领域。


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