A blood-red squid with stubby arms, missing tentacles, and a knack for swimming like a nautilus was spotted in the Gulf of Mexico.
The horned squid was first spotted near an undersea mound, swimming around at a depth of roughly 2790 feet on April 17th by the crew aboard the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer that was set to map out an ocean area that was never explored before.
While conducting scientific research and getting images of deep-sea habitats, researchers stumbled across a rather unique ecosystem that featured this horned squid that had never been seen anywhere else.
The dive was part of an ocean exploration mission to investigate deep-sea habitats in the Gulf of Mexico. The expedition is being conducted by the NOAA research vessel Okeanos Explorer and is taking place from April 11 through May 3.
While some believe that the horned squid may be a new species entirely, others are drawing similarities to the Discoteuthis genus as it somewhat resembles the squids of that genus. There is, however, the possibility that we’ve discovered a brand new species.
Our exploration and understanding of the ocean floor is quite limited compared to other habitats here on Earth, and there’s no doubt that there are still a good number of species deep under the ocean that we haven’t yet stumbled across. The discovery of this horned squid is a reminder of how little we know about the ocean floor.
When the horned squid was discovered, it was “curled inward in a very dramatic manner” with arms folded as if in a defensive posture.
NOAA biologist Mike Vecchione said that it was “probably the most bizarre squid I’ve ever seen…my first reaction was, ‘What in the hell was that?’…It didn’t look like any squid I had seen, until we started getting close and the animal started rotating around.”
While the discovery of the horned squid is perhaps the most notable revelation so far to come out of the deep sea expedition in the Gulf of Mexico, the project is set to run from April 11th through May 3rd – perhaps unlocking more secrets of this mysterious area of the Gulf of Mexico deep sea.
Little is known about the horned squid outside of the initial spotting, and it’s unclear as to how the species functions. It’s certainly possible that it’s part of a species we’ve already categorized or that it’s a close relative of that we’ve already seen.
The idea that it could be a brand new species entirely does have some credence, however, as this is a previously unexplored area of the ocean with relatively unique conditions. Our capabilities to easily explore such ocean depths have only come into being relatively recently, and will soon open up a whole new aquatic world to our purview and allow us to map out an environment that is increasingly alien to us here on land.
As we get deeper and deeper underwater, the number of species that can grow and thrive become fewer and fewer. We do see, however, that these vast swaths of water that we’ve only recently begun to set foot in can hold untold mysteries that we’ve never taken the chance to explore in the past.