New Squid on the Block - discovered/photographed Dec. 20. 2001

Scientists are stumped as to how to classify it."We've never seen anything like it," said Michael Vecchione, an expert in squids and head of the National Marine Fisheries Service lab in Washington.

The newly discovered squid has ten indistinguishable appendages which all appear the same length and have "elbows" from which the rest of the arm hangs straight down. Squid are usually characterized by eight long arms plus two modified shorter arms called tentacles.

The other "weird" feature is the two enormous fins that stick out from the body and flap as the creature floats around. Instead of using jet propulsion, this is how it swims. Size estimates of the squid range from 5 to 23 feet (1.5 to 7 meters)

Also weird was the squid's indifference to brightly lit submersibles. "The submersible has a lot of bright lights and most animals flee when they see it," said Joan Bernhard, a microbiologist at the University of South Carolina who was one of the few who saw the squid more than a mile deep in the Gulf of Mexico. "But this guy just hovered there, checking us out, and didn't budge.Eventually it kind of said, 'OK, I'm out of here.' And flapped away slowly."

Scientists figure the the strange, unidentified squid, which is found more than a mile down, has been spotted eight times in the past 13 years, but the sightings have always been unexpected and brief - too brief for observers to understand what they'd seen.

"It makes you think - where have we been and where have they been all this time?" said Clyde Roper, an invertebrate biologist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington who has spent years in search of another highly elusive animal, the giant squid.

It makes you think - where have we been and where have they been all this time?" said Clyde Roper, an invertebrate biologist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington who has spent years in search of another highly elusive animal, the giant squid.

Future encounters might remain rare since there are only six submersibles exist in the world that can go more than a mile down. Cost is also an issue. Expenses for using the deep sea submersible Alvin, for example, can run $25,000 a day, so when researchers do venture down deep, their time is limited and focused.
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