A strange horned squid was spotted off of the Gulf of Mexico – leaving scientists scratching their heads as to the origins of this mysterious creature.
The horned squid was first spotted near an undersea mound, swimming around at a depth of roughly 2790 feet. During an unrelated research project that took steps to explore the Gulf of Mexico, the horned squid with a bloody red body was discovered deep under the sea.
The horned squid was captured 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.
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“Dive 04 targeted an unnamed mound in East Breaks (EB) 1009, an area of the Gulf of Mexico that had never before been explored using deep-sea submersibles. The closest historical dive to the site was a single 2009 survey that autonomous underwater vehicle Sentry conducted over 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) to the north,” said a NOAA statement.
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.
Hopefully, during the rest of the expedition that is set to run until May 3rd, we’ll find more information as to what secrets this horned squid has to offer.