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February 2002 Vol. 28, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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What You See When You Dive Deeper

from the February, 2002 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

An enormous squid that grows to 23 feet long and lives more than 3,000 feet below the surface has been discovered by scientists in submersible vehicles. They have spotted the squid in the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. This is not the well-known giant squid: “These are a real mystery,” said Michael Vecchione of the National Museum of Natural History. “This is well beyond a new species. New species are a dime a dozen. This is fundamentally different.”

Vecchione said these squid do not act or look like other squid, which tend to be quick-moving and highly visual. Instead of having two arms and eight tentacles, this squid has ten appendages that all look alike. “The really long skinny arms are much longer than the squid’s body. Whenever the submersible came upon one, it was in a characteristic posture, floating vertically in the water with the arms spread out,” he said.

Texas A&M oceanographer William Sager, who photographed the squid, said, “I had never seen anything like this. It just hung there, looking at us, as if suddenly seeing our submersible float up like a whale with lights was no big deal. We photographed it for ten minutes, and when we got to shore, we went looking for someone who could identify it.”

Vecchione said the skinny tentacles would not be used to grasp prey — which is what most squid do with them — but may be used like a net. “I think those long extensions are really sticky. One animal bumped into the submersible and got tangled up in it. The animal seemed to have a problem letting go. It might go around waiting for small prey like crustaceans to stumble into it and get stuck — sort of like a living spider web. Every time someone goes down there they find something really strange. It’s Eureka time.”

— Reuters and Science Magazine

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