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Mesmerizing Video Of Adorable Piglet Squid Caught By Deep-Sea Exploration Vessel

author

Kristy Hamilton

West Coast Editor

clockJul 24 2019, 10:56 UTC

What a beauty. Screen capture/EV Nautilus

"What are you?" asks a member of the E/V Nautilus, an expedition ship seeking out new discoveries in unexplored regions of the ocean.

"It’s like a bloated squid with tiny tentacles and a little hat that’s waving around," he adds. "I've never seen anything that looks like this before."

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A remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) captured the creature in all its glory at a depth of 1,385 meters (4,500 feet) below the surface near the Palmyra Atoll in the Northern Pacific Ocean.

Marine scientists later confirmed the enigmatic beauty as a piglet squid (Helicocranchia sp.), so named for its rotund shape and swine-looking snout used to siphon water like a jet pump. The creature regulates its buoyancy via an ammonia-filled internal chamber, a relatively common chemical on Earth that can be harmful to humans in high concentrations.

Screen capture/EV Nautilus

Without a frame of reference for size in the video, you could be deceived into thinking it is larger than it truly is. In fact, it is only a little larger than a pear.

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"It kind of looks like it has a nose and eyes and hair," says one of the researchers in the video. The "hair" is actually its tentacles, which are often flared above its eyes like "reindeer antlers" as one member observed.

The piglet squid is a cephalopod, an intelligent underwater mollusk that is joined by other well-known creatures such as octopuses, cuttlefish, and the chambered nautilus. The pigmented patterns on its body, also known as chromatophores, are often used for camouflage, though its exact purpose for this creature needs to be confirmed. 

When piglet squid are young, they live near the ocean's surface, only a couple hundred meters deep. As they mature, they descend to the depths of the ocean known as the twilight zone, or mesopelagic zone. This cold region of the ocean lies 200 to 1,000 meters (650 to 3,300 feet) deep and is dimly lit except for the occasional bioluminescent flashes.

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This creature, however, was found to have wandered even deeper down into the darker depths of the bathypelagic zone, between 1,000 to 4,000 meters (3,280 to 13,000 feet). This region is sometimes referred to as the midnight zone for the lack of sunlight that penetrates this layer of the ocean. 


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