Scientists have developed a robot inspired by the deep-water snailfish and used it to explore the abyssal depths of the Marianas Trench.

In a study that has been published in the journal Nature, a team of Chinese engineers created a lithium-battery-powered ‘soft’ robot whose unique design enabled it to attain depths previously only accessible to more-rigid and bigger submersibles.

At a mere 22cm long, the diminutive robot looks like a tiny ray, but apparently its design is based on the hadal snailfish, which is effectively a see-through lumb of cartilage that can live in the ocean depths.

It is not the most-dynamic of robots – it only moves at a speed of 4cm per second – but it was still able to swim freely at the bottom of the Marianas Trench, and last for 45 minutes before its ballast was released and it returned to the surface.

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