Incredibly Rare and Mysterious Sea Creature Filmed Over 10,000 Feet Into the Abyss

A mysterious and rare sea creature has been filmed in Australian waters for the first time, with researchers capturing footage of the Bigfin squid (Magnapinna) at a depth of over 10,000 feet during a voyage into the abyss.

There have only ever been around a dozen confirmed sightings of the creature worldwide, making the latest images of it hugely important to science. In total, the team led by Australia's national science agency CSIRO filmed five individual squid during a dive in the Great Australian Bight—an open bay of water off the country's southern coast.

The bodies of the Bigfin squid filmed measured around six foot, while their tentacles stretched out to 23 feet.

"Most previous reports have been of single Bigfin squid, so it's exciting to have recorded five in the Great Australian Bight," marine scientist Deborah Osterhage said in a statement. "Differences in their appearance meant we were able to confirm they were five separate individuals, rather than the same squid multiple times, and although the surveys covered a relatively large area, the squid were actually found clustered close together."

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Osterhage and her colleagues have published a report into the sightings in the journal PLOS One. Their analysis revealed a number of previously unknown characteristics of the species, including how it changes color. The creatures were filmed at depths between 3,100 and 10,700 feet.

"We were very excited to see the Bigfin squid again and obtain this extraordinary footage. It has enabled us to learn more about this elusive and intriguing deep-sea squid," Osterhage said. "We... observed their color and behaviors, including filament coiling, a behavior not previously seen in squids."

Writing for The Conversation, Osterhage and Hugh MacIntosh, a research associate with Museums Victoria, said the Bigfin squid was first described in 1998, based on damaged specimens from Hawaii. Its most distinguishing feature is a set of large fins, which is where the name came from.

They said previous sightings of live creatures tend to be of single individuals. Finding five in one relatively concentrated space suggests this part of the ocean could be their natural habitat, although more sightings would be needed to confirm this. "Whether the comparatively high number of Magnapinna squid sighted in Australia's [Great Australian Bight] equates to a [Bigfin squid] hotspot remains to be seen," the team wrote in the study.

"The morphological, behavioral, and ecological insights gained from these Magnapinna sp. sightings reinforces the value of imagery as a tool in deep-sea squid research, and add to our knowledge of this elusive and intriguing genus."