'Ghostly' Deep-Sea Bigfin Squid Filmed Almost 8,000 Feet below the Ocean Surface

A rarely filmed deep-sea squid was recorded off the southeast coast of the U.S., with observers describing the creature with tentacles stretching up to 20 feet as "ghostly" and "alien-ish."

The remarkable footage released by the NOAA Ocean Exploration was taken as part of the organization's Windows to the Deep 2021 expedition. This is marked by a series of dives using a remotely operated vehicle that have been taking place since October 26. The project will end on November 15.

The ocean covers about 70 percent of the Earth's surface, yet just 20 percent of it has been mapped. The deepest known point of the ocean is the Mariana Trench's Challenger Deep, which lies over 35,000 feet below the surface of the ocean.

The bigfin squid was filmed on November 9. The dive took place off the west Florida shelf, with the team observing a plant on a rocky shelf at a depth of over 7,700 feet. As the camera pans back, the team spot a squid in the distance and follow it.

bigfin squid
A still from the footage of the bigfin squid taken as part of the NOAA Ocean Exploration Windows to the Deep 2021 dives. NOAA Ocean Exploration Windows to the Deep 2021

Michael Vecchione, a zoologist with the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service National Systematics Lab and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, told Newsweek that one of the team members is currently trying to estimate the size of the bigfin using paired lasers. He said it was an adult. "The largest bigfin reported was about 21 ft total length but, of course, most of that length is in the extremely long arms and tentacles; the body length of that squid was about a foot," Vecchione said.

There have been just a dozen published observations of bigfin squid, of the genus Magnapinna. Vecchione said there have been other, unpublished sightings, but this only amounts to maybe another dozen. Capturing a bigfin squid on film is very rare.

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"Bigfin squids are the deepest known squids," Vecchione said. The current record depth one has been seen is 15,534 feet—however, Vecchione said scientists have recorded one far, far deeper and are currently working to publish their findings.

The Windows to the Deep expedition aims to map and collect information about the poorly understood areas of the Blake Plateau region of the North Atlantic Ocean. This includes the deep waters off Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. The team hopes that by mapping the region and getting an idea of the life it supports, they will be better able to protect and manage it.

Allen Collins, biology science lead on the dive, from the NOAA Fisheries National Systematics Laboratory and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, told Newsweek that the most remarkable animal he had seen during the expedition was a jellyfish he believes is new to science.

new jellyfish
The jellyfish spotted on the first day of the expedition may be new to science. NOAA Ocean Exploration Windows to the Deep 2021

"We encountered it on the very first dive and were able to successfully collect an individual," he said. "It is in the family Rhopalonematidae and I am very much looking forward to continuing to study the specimen to better understand how it fits into the overall jellyfish tree of life."