A Mastigoteuthis squid caught on film


Blue Ring
Nov 8, 2004
Wandering about the wide world web and sumbled upon this. It's a short piece of footage of a large Mastigoteuthis. Haven't had a chance to nose about this website much more that looking at the film.

NOAA Ocean Explorer: Operation Deep Scope

A very large squid was caught on film this morning deep in the Gulf of Mexico. A one-of-a-kind technology, called the Eye-in-the-Sea, captured the giant lurking in front of its red light cameras over 1,600 ft below the surface.

The event was triggered by a bioluminescence (light) sensor that turned the camera on, capturing a few seconds of the deep-water predator before it swam away. This marks the first time a squid has ever been filmed by this unobtrusive observation tool.

Initial studies identify the squid as a Mastigoteuthis, approximately six ft in length. The science team will re-deploy the camera system on the sea floor for 24-hour periods over the next week. Stay tuned for more updates from sea.
It cannot be a Mastigoteuthis for a number of reasons. First & foremost, it has only 8 arms (the two tentacles on Mastigoteuthis are very long, and actually quite thick on a 'species' of this size (and I say 'species' rather than 'specimen', because the only species that I am familiar with that attains this size is Mastigoteuthis cordiformis (= Idioteuthis cordiformis), or species of Magnoteuthis); in both the fins are enormous. The second reason is that Mastigoteuthids/Chiroteuthids do not attack prey of this size (the distal-most portion of the tentacle, the club, is covered in myriad tiny suckers). On all the dissections of large-bodied Mastigoteuthids that I have done the stomach caecum is invariably full of orange liquid, probably oil. They are supposed to (and indeed video footage shows them doing this) trawl along the seabed with these two outstretched tentacles, capturing benthic copepods/small crsutaceans with the sticky clubs.

If you play around with that video, moving it backwards rather than forewards, it looks like the animal is actually lunging at the fish on the seabed. Either there is a commensal relationship with the fish (and this is quite unlikely), the video has been reversed to see the squid departing frame (rather than entering it) (and this is quite unlikely, given the source of the imagery), OR the fish was in the process of being restrained/eaten by the squid, but the squid beat a hasty retreat when the camera lights went on.

This is an agressive squid. The mantle texture is quite smooth (excluding the likes of the 8-armed Lepidoteuthis); the arms are long and the fins posterior (excluding the likes of octopoteuthids, also 8-armed); it lacks well-developed (or at least apparent) keels on the lateral arms, so this excludes Pholidoteuthis (Pholidoteuthidae) and Ommastrephidae (typical arrow squids); the mantle texture also excludes MOST onychoteuthids, and at this size we really are only talking Moroteuthis.

If I was to have a 'guess' I'd say that it was a gonatid squid (Family Gonatidae). In Gonatus the tentacles are apparently lost at reproduction; in Gonatopsis they are present only in larval stages. I've seen video of Gonatus with the egg mass attached to the arms (as in the female broods the mass). As such is is unlikely that the specimen we see in this film is tending an egg mass attached to the sea bed (with the fish simply being there out of coincidence). Most all other families of squid can be eliminated for one reason or another.

In short, likely Gonatus or Gonatopsis, predating fish, disturbed and adandoned pursuit. Definitely not mastigoteuthid!
Steve, thanks for those insights. I find that particular video amazing. I didn't know that it had been refered to before, I just discovered this, and the news was in that paper 17 hours ago.

But now the newest press says, probably based on what you said, that this species is not identifiable...

It is a powerful video. It's also cool! :smile:
so, I' not the only one to think that it looks as if the squid was lunging at the squid. I though I was the only idiot dumb enoough to play with the switches..
I'm also thinking that it's an armhook squid (yes, I use common names of specific families), I think I saw suction cups & hooks on the arms (I have very good vision when wearing glasses-good enough, in fact, to discern individual features in videos like this)

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