NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer research ship sent an ROV down into the Gulf of Mexico and caught sight of this wild-looking bigfin squid.
Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET
Deep in the ocean dwells a strange cephalopod with eight arms and two tentacles. The bigfin squid can top 19.7 feet (6 meters) in length. It’s elusive and every sighting is a chance to learn more about the mysterious animals.
The crew of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Okeanos Explorer research ship spotted some watery wonders — including a bigfin squid — during its recently concluded Windows to the Deep 2021 expedition.
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The NOAA researchers used a remote-operated vehicle to dive down and investigate the West Florida Escarpment in the Gulf of Mexico. The ROV caught sight of the squid on Nov. 9 and NOAA tweeted a video compilation of the ethereal creature on Monday, complete with the commentary from delighted scientists. The explorers called it “cool,” “ghostly” and “very alienish.”
“How exactly bigfin squid use their arms and tentacles is unknown,” NOAA said in a statement last week. “But, these appendages have microscopic suckers on them, and scientists think it’s likely that squid use them to trap prey that bump into them as they hang down in the water below their body or drag along the seafloor.”
The bigfin squid was first officially described only about 20 years ago. It was originally thought to be just one species, as squid expert Mike Vecchione explains in the video commentary, but now several different species of bigfin (genus Magnapinna) are known to exist. Vecchione was one of the scientists who first described the squid.
The squid might be rare, but researchers have been working hard to learn more about the deep-ocean animals. A study published in 2020 detailed five sightings off the coast of Australia. Each new video is another small window into the bigfin’s world, and a chance to admire the beauty of a scintillating cephalopod.