MBARI released some incredible new photos of a strange species of deep sea squid today. What makes this squid so strange you ask? Well, it has a mini me attached to it!
Let me explain: lots of species of deep sea creatures (and ones that aren’t found so deep) use “lures” to attract prey close to their mouths. The anglerfish is probably one of the most well-known species to employ this trick. However, squid hadn’t been known to do such a thing… until now.
This species, called Grimalditeuthis bonplandi, is majorly different from any other known squid. Not only does it have this bizarre lure, but it also lacks the characteristic suckers found on most squid’s tentacles. It also has no hooks or photophores (glowing spots). Because of its unique body structure, G. bonplandi employs a very different feeding strategy from most squid. Your typical squid as a very streamlined, mobile body that allows it to quickly dart out and grab its prey with its sucker-lined tentacles. This one, though, has a weak, gelatinous body and can’t swim fast at all – in fact, it moves rather slowly. Its tentacles are weak, thin, and fragile and are useless when it comes to quickly picking off swimming fish. Its that strange, long tentacle that brings in the bacon for this guy.
What’s particularly fascinating about the squid’s lure is that it acts like its own separate entity – a mini me, if you will. The lead author of the paper describing this new squid, Henk-Jan Hoving examined video of G. bonplandi taken during an MBARI ROV dive in Monterey Bay in addition to several other video samples. What he saw in the videos was shocking. The squids were hanging motionless in the water with their eight arms spread wide and their two long, thin tentacles dangling below. The tentacles didn’t move by themselves, they were propelled by the ‘club’ (lure) and the end of the tentacle. The club had its own tiny, thin membranes which looked much like fins that moved in flapping, fluttering motions. It looked as if the clubs swam on their own, with the tentacles trailing behind.
G. bonplandi sends its clubs swimming away from its body, leading its fragile tentacles off into the darkness. If it feels threatened, the squid, instead of retracting its tentacles quickly into its body like most squids, will instead swim down towards its tentacles, collecting them close to its body. It will then swim off with both its tentacles and clubs coiled inside its eight arms. The thought behind all this is that the squid wants to do everything in its power to make it appear that the clubs are independent creatures.
Since the clubs do not glow, the researchers theorized that the motion of the clubs might be enough to draw the attention of small fish and other curious creatures. Or, the vibrations in the water created by the flapping clubs might imitate the vibrations used by prey animals to attract mates. Unfortunately, the squid wasn’t observed catching anything so we’re still not 100% sure exactly how it uses these bizarre mini me clubs to collect prey. For now, that remains a deep sea mystery.