Scientists Discover 'Bizarre,' Contorted Deep-Sea Squid In Gulf Of Mexico

Scientists exploring the Gulf of Mexico recently discovered a deep-sea squid that appeared to have twisted and folded its body in such a way that it hardly bore any resemblance to what a squid should look like.

According to National Geographic, footage of the squid was captured on Tuesday by the crew of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Okeanos Explorer research vessel. With little more than two weeks remaining to livestream its findings on YouTube, the Okeanos Explorer's remote-controlled submarine spotted an unusual discovery several thousands of feet below the western Gulf of Mexico, a creature that threw researchers off as it didn't look anything like a traditional squid.

Commenting on the discovery, NOAA biologist and squid expert Mike Vecchione said that the deep-sea squid the Okeanos team had spotted was probably the "most bizarre" squid he had 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."
On the last Okeanos Explorer mission update on the NOAA website, researchers noted that the squid, while still unidentified, might be part of the Discoteuthis genus. National Geographic wrote that Vecchione is in the process of verifying the squid's exact species, which might be Discoteuthis discus, a variant that is believed to reside in the waters of the tropical Atlantic, but has never been seen alive.

"Every time we catch [D. discus], it's so hard to tell what species it is. I've never seen one entire, or in good condition," said Vecchione.

As observed by Live Science, photos and videos of the deep-sea squid show its body curled inward in a "very dramatic pose," almost looking as if it's trying to defend itself from predators. Such a position is not unusual for squids, particularly those in the Psychroteuthidae genus, but what stood out as peculiar was that the creature had four limbs tightly stretched outward.

It's not sure why this week's deep-sea squid sighting was striking an extremely defensive pose when it was spotted by the Okeanos team. However, University of Connecticut squid biologist Sarah McAnulty believes that the animal might be striking this pose in an attempt to collect debris from shallow waters, a food source also referred to as "marine snow." Other squid species use their sticky skin to collect marine snow, but since the squid in question was notable for its outstretched arms, McAnulty theorized that it might use its arms to harvest marine snow, or to ensure that the substance doesn't flow off its body.

Editor's note: the featured image for this post is a stock photo.