Watch: This Deep-Sea Squid Has Never Been Filmed Alive Before… Until Now

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The Asperoteuthis mangoldae squid was seen alive for the first time during a survey of the Jarvis Seamount in the Pacific Ocean. Researchers think this unusual squid’s tail may help it mimic other animals. (Photo Credit: Nautilus Live)

Marine scientists have filmed the first-ever sighting of an unusual deep-sea squid in the Pacific Ocean earlier this month.

The squid was spotted hovering above the seafloor near Jarvis Seamount in the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, according to researchers of the 2019 Nautilus expedition.

“[On July 5, 2019], diving at 930m depth on Jarvis Seamount, E/V Nautilus and ROV Hercules encountered a very unusual squid swimming just above the bottom. At first, it looked like a long, narrow squid with something stuck on it,” said Dr. Michael Vecchione, NOAA National Systematics Lab and National Museum of Natural History. “The ‘something’ was actually part of the squid, a tail extending beyond the fins and effectively doubling the length of the animal.”

The squid was an Asperoteuthis mangoldae, a recently discovered deep-sea species that had never been seen alive — until now.

According to Vecchione, the genus Asperoteuthis is characterized by a strange tail and unusual tentacles. The tail, which is stiffened by a rod-like structure throughout it length, has sheets of tissue on both sides. The flaps are sometimes called “secondary fins” but, don’t actually function as fins. Squid fins, like the normal “primary” fins on this squid, flap or undulate to propel the animal and can be used to steer.

Scientists are not clear on the function of the tail, but Vecchione said it seems to change the appearance of the squid. In the video captured by the ROV Hercules, the squid’s tail appear to double its size. The squid in the video also demonstrates how it can swim while pushing or pulling its large tail.

(Photo Credit: Nautilus Live)

“When first seen by the ROV, the tissue of the tail is fully deployed,” Vecchione said. “After a short while, the squid first swims rapidly forward (arms first), collapsing the tail tissue around the rod-like structure. Then it reverses course and swims rapidly backward (tail first, which is typical for high-speed swimming by a squid). While it swims backward the tissue stays tightly held close to the rod, similar to a sail furled on the boom of a schooner.”

Vecchione added: “As the squid swims erratically to escape, even changing color and inking once, the tail stays furled, greatly reducing its drag. Therefore, jetting forward to furl the tail seems to be the first step in the squid’s complex escape maneuvers.”

The survey of the Jarvis Seamount was part of the 2019 Nautilus expedition that set out to explore the deep ocean waters of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, near Kingman Reef, Palmyra Atoll and Jarvis Island, which are among the most remote U.S.-controlled territories.

Earlier in the expedition, scientists aboard the Nautilus also spotted a see-through piglet squid near the Palmyra Atoll and a dumbo octopus near Kingman Reef.

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