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Rare deepsea octopus-squid grabs camera

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Dana octopus-squid (Minderoo-UWA Deep Sea Research Centre)
Dana octopus-squid (Minderoo-UWA Deep Sea Research Centre)
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A deep-sea octopus-squid rarely seen in its natural habitat has been caught on video more than 1,000m deep by scientists from Australia and the UK.

A team from the Minderoo-University of Western Australia Deep Sea Research Centre with chief scientist and UWA associate professor Heather Stewart from Kelpie Geosciences UK had been deploying free-fall baited cameras north of a Central Pacific area known as the Samoan Passage to depths of more than 5km from the research vessel Dagon.

Taningia danae, also known as the Dana octopus-squid or deep-sea hooked squid, caught up with the lander as it was sinking at a rate of 58m a minute. 

“As we were reviewing the footage, we realised we had captured something very rare,” said Stewart. “The squid, which was about 75cm long, descended on our camera assuming it was prey, and tried to startle it with its huge bioluminescent headlights. 

“It then proceeded to wrap its arms around one of the other cameras, which in turn captured the encounter in even greater detail. I think we were very lucky to have witnessed this.”

One of the biggest deepwater squid, the Dana has the largest known photophores in the natural world on the ends of two of its arms. It uses these to produce bright bioluminescent flashes to startle and disorientate prey. 

“Many records of this species are from strandings, accidental bycatch or from the stomach contents of whales,” commented Prof Alan Jamieson, director of the centre, adding that observing deep-sea squid in mid-water was notoriously challenging.

“The rarity of live observations of these amazing animals makes every encounter valuable in gathering information on geographic locations, depth, and behaviour, plus it is such a unique animal that we hardly ever get to see, so we had to share it.”

The Dagon is in the final phase of a three-month expedition, supported by Inkfish Expeditions, to explore and document the biodiversity and geodiversity of the seafloor in the Nova Canton Trough at depths between 3 and 8km.

Also read: We all need a little octopus love, Is it Game Over for the deep sea?, Midnight Cannibalism takes top award at Yap’s annual MantaFest

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