Kai the Fish Guy shows off strange deep-sea fishes found in the Indian Ocean : Short Wave Yi-Kai Tea, a biodiversity research fellow at the Australian Museum in Sydney, has amassed a social media following as @KaiTheFishGuy for his sassy writing and gorgeous photos of fish and other wildlife.

Kai recently returned from an expedition aboard an Australian research ship to explore the deep seas surrounding a new marine park in the Indian Ocean. Led by the Museums Victoria Research Institute, dozens of scientists aboard mapped the ocean floor and, using nets dropped to as deep as six kilometers, gathered thousands of specimens, ranging from the utterly adorable deep sea batfish to the terrifying highfin lizardfish to the unfortunately named bony-eared assfish.

Today on the show, Kai takes host Aaron Scott on a tour of the ocean floor and the fantastical creatures that call it home.

"They are masters of the realm," says Kai. "You can't live in 3,000 meters of water and not be a master at what you do. And the fact that these creatures are living down there, thriving and making the most out of these habitats, that's a remarkable feat."

Scientists discover fantastical creatures deep in the Indian Ocean

Scientists discover fantastical creatures deep in the Indian Ocean

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Of the many species the scientists photographed aboard the RV Investigator, the deep-sea batfish made one of the biggest splashes across social media. Benjamin Healley / Museums Victoria hide caption

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Benjamin Healley / Museums Victoria

Of the many species the scientists photographed aboard the RV Investigator, the deep-sea batfish made one of the biggest splashes across social media.

Benjamin Healley / Museums Victoria

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The bottom of the ocean is a tremendously inhospitable place to live. It's dark, it's cold, and the pressure is fierce. But the creatures that have evolved to live there are wondrous.

"They are masters of the realm," said Yi-Kai Tea, a biodiversity research fellow at the Australian Museum in Sydney who has amassed a social media following as @KaiTheFishGuy. "You can't live in 3,000 meters of water and not be a master at what you do. And the fact that these creatures are living down there, thriving and making the most out of these habitats, that's a remarkable feat."

Kai recently returned from a 35-day expedition aboard the RV Investigator, a research vessel operated by the Australian government's science agency CSIRO, to explore the deep seas surrounding a new marine park in the Indian Ocean. Led by the Museums Victoria Research Institute, dozens of scientists mapped the ocean floor of Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park. Using nets dropped to as deep as six kilometers, they gathered thousands of specimens, ranging from the adorable deep-sea batfish to the terrifying highfin lizardfish to the unfortunately named bony-eared assfish.

Voyage Chief Scientist Tim O'Hara estimated about a third of them could be new to science – and each is a marvel of deep-sea evolution.

Today on the show, Kai takes host Aaron Scott on a tour of some of the most eye-popping deep-sea fishes and explains how they live in this fierce environment.

"We got a few really exciting finds: things like the viper fish and pelican eels and tripod fishes," said Kai. "These were just childhood favorites of mine that I've known about basically since I was 10, but have never thought in my wildest dreams that I would see and hold in person."

Have questions or ideas for science topics you want to hear us cover? Email us at shortwave@npr.org.

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Today's episode was produced by Thomas Lu, edited by Gabriel Spitzer and fact-checked by Brit Hanson. Josh Newell was the audio engineer.