‘Mysterious’ glass squid in Antarctica could be the first-ever colossal squid baby ever filmed

The colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) is one of the ocean’s greatest mysteries. There are no photos and no images of a live colossal squid in its natural habitat. What we do know about this oceanic beast is thanks to the few specimens found in fishing nets or washed up on beaches.

An international research team has devised the ambitious plan to find and study the colossal squid in its natural home by 2025, the centenary of the species’ discovery. Between December 2022 and March 2023, the team traveled to Antarctica four times to find the colossal squid. They used an Arctic tourist ship called the Ocean attempt equipped with a deep-sea camera system that can be lowered to a maximum depth of 400 meters (1,312 feet).

The colossal squid is believed to measure 14 meters (46 feet) and weigh at least 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds). It is a multiple world record holder, taking over the title for the world’s largest invertebrate animal (at least in terms of weight). This elusive species is believed to live in the deep sea of ​​the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica.

Although the team failed to find an adult, they did capture images of a 10 to 12 centimeter (3.9 to 4.7 in) glass squid. These images are currently being analyzed and may show an unknown species, an adult Galiteuthis glacialis calamari, or the first footage of a tiny juvenile colossal squid ever recorded. It appears at 2 minutes and 33 seconds in the video below.

“The colossal squid is an overgrown species that shows how little we know about the ocean,” said Matt Mulrennan, marine scientist, leader of the four 2022-2023 expeditions and founder/CEO of the nonprofit Kolossal, in a statement to IFL Science.

Glass squids are scientifically known as the family Cranchiidae, which includes both the colossal squid and the Galiteuthis glacialis species belong. These are the only known Cranchidae to live in these Antarctic conditions.

“The two known Cranchiidae taxa found in Antarctica are Galiteuthis glacialis And Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni. The squid seen here could belong to different life stages of any of these taxa – and is an exciting example of wild cranchiid behavior, as I can think of no existing video footage of these squids in their natural environment,” said Dr. Aaron Evans. who studies the family Cranchiidae and has reviewed the images.

The images show large amounts of marine snow, organic material falling into the deep ocean; this obscures the view of the mysterious squid as it appears.

“Identification of glass squids from images can be difficult; some species have unique combinations of visible features, but other groups of species look so similar that it is very difficult to confirm who they are from images,” says Dr Kat Bolstad of Auckland University of Technology (AUT), a expert on the colossal squid and also reviewed the images.

In addition to the squid footage, the team filmed a whole host of other deep-sea animals – more than 80 different species, including giant volcanic sponges, Antarctic sunflower stars and multiple species of tunicates, soft corals, siphonophores and crinoids.

Giant volcanic sponges are believed to be among the oldest living animals on the planet, with an estimated lifespan of up to 15,000 years.

Image credits: © KOLOSSAL / MULRENNAN

“This glass squid observation adds to the 100 years of mystery surrounding the search for the colossal squid, as the true identification may ultimately never be solved. But during these exciting expeditions we also engaged many people – from students to retirees – in the spirit of ocean exploration and discovered that the remote water depths of Antarctica are alive, unique and worthy of protection,” Mulrennan concluded.

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