Bobtail squid, the mysterious and googly-eyed cousins of cuttlefish, have a new member in their gang. Don't be fooled by these cephalopods' dashingly cute looks, they've also got the brains to match.
The new species of bobtail squid was recently discovered in the tropical waters of Okinawa in Japan, as described in the journal Communications Biology.
The species has been named Euprymna brenneri in honor of the late Dr Sydney Brenner, one of the founders of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST), whose lab team helped to identify the animal.
Dr Brenner was best known as a molecular geneticist whose research into a tiny nematode worm led to critical insights into genetics and human disease, however, Brenner was also a huge fan of cephalopods – and who could blame him? He was also a friend and mentor to many members of the team that made this new discovery.
“While Sydney Brenner was not involved directly in the discovery of this new species, he was an enthusiastic advocate for research in Okinawa and our group, and a big fan of cephalopods as ‘the first intelligent animals on the planet,’” Daniel Rokhsar, head of the Molecular Genetics Unit at OIST, told IFLScience.
“Brenner initiated the first cephalopod genome-sequencing project, the California two-spot octopus, which we published together in 2015, and he was always fascinated by these animals and their distinctively organized yet comparably complex nervous system compared with our own vertebrate structure.”
Bobtails have many features that differentiate them from true squid and are actually more closely related to other kinds of cephalopods, such as cuttlefish. They are typically pretty small – between just 1 and 8 centimeters (0.4 and 3 inches) – and this one is no different, measuring in at just a few centimeters long.
As the new study touches on, this new species of bobtail squid also has an intriguing relationship with luminescent bacteria. The new research shows that the bobtail has a pouch-like organ on its underside that’s filled with Vibrio fischeri bacteria. As nocturnal beings, the bobtails utilize the glow to camouflage themselves and stealthily hunt prey.
More bobtail squid mysteries remain, however. The researchers started their study by looking for bobtail squid eggs around the coast of Okinawa, resulting in the discovery of two adults and three different types of eggs. To match them, they allowed the eggs to hatch and compared DNA sequences of hatchlings, eventually resulting in the identification of E. brenneri.
However, the third egg type remains unaccounted for as they were unable to raise its hatchlings to maturity.
"We kept looking for the third adult type, which we never found – its possible that it lives in deeper waters than we could search," Professor Rokhsar added. "The third type remains mysterious, as we were never able to raise its hatchlings to maturity."