Strange, Rare Deep Sea Squid Filmed Alive in Wild for First Time Ever

Scientists have filmed a bizarre and rarely seen species of deep-sea squid alive in the wild for the first time.

The three inch long ram's horn squid, also known as Spirula spirula, lives at depths of over 3,000 feet and, due to being so small, is rarely seen in its natural habitat. They are named for their spiral-shaped skeletons that are often found washed up on beaches and the species is found throughout the tropical Atlantic and Indo-West Pacific region.

Researchers from the Schmidt Ocean Institute filmed the species off the coast of Australia and later posted the video on Twitter, saying they had "exciting news."

"This appears to be the FIRST observation of Spirula, aka ram's horn squid, alive + in its natural environment," it wrote. "Very rarely seen or captured, they have many extinct relatives, but are only living member of genus Spirula, family Spirulidae, and order Spirulida."

According to ScienceAlert, Schmidt researchers spotted the creature while using a remote operating vehicle in the Great Barrier Reef. They were filming at a depth of almost 2,800 feet.

For around a minute, the film shows the squid swimming in the deep, before it drops at speed out of sight.

In an email to Newsweek, a spokesperson for the Schmidt Ocean Institute said the encounter took place about 2.5 hours into the dive and the researchers were all surprised by its appearance. "The squid remained upright unmoving as we zoomed in closer to get a better view, but then starting swimming off rapidly downwards and we kept following it around for a couple minutes to study and comment on its unique shape and staring eyes."

The discovery came as the researchers continued a huge mapping project of the reef. On Monday, the organization announced the discovery of an enormous detached coral reef—the first to be discovered in over 100 years.

In a statement about this discovery, the institute's co-founder Wendy Schmidt said that new technologies were "revealing the ecosystems and diverse life forms that share the planet with us."

Other major discoveries made by the institute as part of the project include the longest sea creature ever recorded, which was a 147 foot siphonophore, and the first observation of a rare scorpionfish.

ram's head squid
Screenshot showing the ram's head squid that was filmed for the first time in the wild off the coast of Australia. Schmidt Ocean Institute

The footage of the ram's horn squid has excited marine scientists. Neige Pascal, from the University of Burgundy in France, told ScienceAlert the bodily position of the Spirula was remarkable. "Are we completely sure about the orientation of the shoot? If this is the case, this is a king of revolution," he told the website. "A lot of people are freaking out because the head is up. And the reason they're freaking out is because the shell with its buoyancy is at the other end of the squid. So you'd think the head, which is heavier, would be hanging down."

Michael Vecchione, who studies midwater squid at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, told ScienceAlert, that the squid has a length-emitting organ, which in the video appears at the top of the squid.

Its orientation is highly unusual for animals, and is now a key question about this rarely seen species. However, Vecchione said more observations would be needed to do this.

As this is the first ever footage, scientists may have to wait a while longer before they see one again.

This article has been updated to include comments from the Schmidt Ocean Institute.