• Damon Swisher

Look at Those Suckers! Elusive Bigfin Squid Says Cheese

On November 11, an interesting study was published detailing new morphological characteristics and rare behavior of an already-rare species of deep sea squid. Ooo, deep sea! We love deep sea stuff, right?

The Bigfin Squid, also known scientifically as Magnapinna, had us all shaking in our chairs when it appeared on a Shell oil rig underwater camera back in 2013, like we were watching an Ari Aster movie, inspiring creepy fan art and speculation about the potential mythical beings that might lurk in the depths of the sea. Seriously, it's hard not to picture Lovecraft drawing up a sketch of this thing - he could have told me it would be in his next book and I wouldn't have questioned him even a little!

But this guy is far from fairy-tale, and believe me when I tell you he has no relation to any adventurous alien species or non-Euclidian monsters.

It is true that little is known about Magnapinna (and many other deep sea cephalopods) but it has less to do with their connection to a particular mythos and more to do with the fact that their deep sea environment remains largely unexplored. However, the research team from the study was able to capture five (5) separate videos of this elusive species, with each video featuring a different squid (confirmed by the research team comparing their morphology). The team used a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), the RV Investigator, with a Marine National Facility tow camera in the Great Australian Bight, which is a big open bay in Western Australia. Using this type of technology to analyze otherwise delicate, deep sea creatures has been revolutionary - old methods like netting often ended up damaging this and other squid species, sabotaging the ability to study their morphology.

During the survey conducted by the team, the towed cameras operated at depths between 1000-3000 meters, and spanned linear transects of nearly 46km of the Great Australian Bight, recording nearly 60 hours of footage. Though the team searched specifically for Magnapinna when reviewing the footage, the number of sightings is shocking to consider.

What Has the Team Learned From These Sightings?

Aside from being the first confirmed sightings of the species within the great Australian Bight, the research team was able to determine quite a bot about their morphology. Comparatively Speaking, the squids (measured using two lasers from the towed camera) seem to range in size between those of the Southern and Northern Hemispheres, as they were on average 7.5 feet long at full length. The were also able to confirm the "brownish" color of the squid that was previously reported from in-situ (being in it's original place) studies, which has been difficult to confirm once the species is removed from it's habitat.

As well, their methods for locomotion have shown to be similar to other deep-sea squid species. The flapping of the squids wings appears to be it's selected method, though there is credence to suggest it may be able to propel itself with jetting (the video made it difficult to confirm, however).

It's also possible the squid is able to coil it's tentacles, as the sightings may suggest. this is unlike most squids - aside from a long lost cousin, the infamous red Vampire Squid. It may employ this coiling to efficiently retract it's exorbitantly long tentacles - though more confirmation will be required.

If you're interested in learning more about the Bigfin Squid or the study that these sightings are from, check out our video up above and the study directly here!

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