FIRST EVER FOOTAGE OF GIANT SQUID HUNTING HIS 2,500 FEET BELOW THE GULF OF MEXICO
The mystery of the creatures below the surface of our oceans has had scientists rubbing their heads for centuries. They have tried to find the answers to how sea life in the deep waters exists every day.
Well, one of these questions was just answered, as scientists have recorded the first footage of a giant squid hunting in dark waters.
For many years, these elusive creatures have remained notoriously difficult to film, seeing that they wonder the sea thousands of feet below. Squids are attracted to the dark spots in the water, which means they live very deep below the surface. With the crushing pressure of water, scientists require specialist equipment to dive so deep.
The Architeuthis dux is one of the most elusive creatures of the inky black deep. These giant squids can grow longer than 40 feet, measured from fin to tentacle, and have eyes the size of basketballs.
Researchers had to rely on robotic submersibles to search for the specimen as the squid's habitat can be more than a half-mile beneath the surface. However, it is also not that easy to rely on robotic submersibles, as the noise and the bright lights can scare off the light-sensitive squid.
Scientists have tried to capture these magnificent specimens on tape for decades. It wasn't unit 2004 before we secured the first still images of a living giant squid in the wild were taken. It was another eight years before obtaining a video of one.
After many years, marine biologists have finally captured footage of Architeuthis dux hunting prey in the wild. The footage was taken in 2019 but was only recently released with an analysis of the creature's behaviour.
Using special equipment, researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) built a "trap", which contained a unique platform with a built-in camera. With that, scientists captured the elusive sea creature attacking a decoy in the Gulf of Mexico. The footage was taken nearly 2,500 feet beneath the surface.
The remote-controlled platform, which is dubbed the Medusa, was baited with "E-jelly". The decoy was designed to attract the squid by imitating the bioluminescence given off by a jellyfish in distress.
At first, experts believed the squid waited to ambush its prey. However, after analysing the video, scientists concluded that they stalked the E-Jelly before going in for the kill. A mesh bag filled with mahi-mahi was also attached as a further enticement.
Giant squids' eyes focus on shorter-wavelength blue light, so the researchers used red light, which the squid can't see as well, to film the encounter.
Several attempts trying to film a squid on the hunt happened in 2004, 2005 and 2013. It was only in June 2019 that an Architeuthis dux was caught on film going for the kill. It was at a depth of approximately 2,490 feet in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Mobile, Alabama. That marked the first time a giant squid had been filmed in US waters.
The specimen measured 13 feet long (not including tentacles) and provided important information on the species predatory habits.
For several minutes, the squid swam around the platform stalking its prey before going in for the kill.
"It comes right in, shoots its arms out [and] wraps its arms around the E-Jelly," said researcher Nathan Robinson.
Robinson added: "You feel very alive. There's something instinctual about these animals that captures the imagination of everyone – the wonder that there are these huge animals out there on our planet that we know so little about. And that we've only caught on camera a couple of times."
Robinson and his colleagues are eager to refine their technique to further observe Architeuthis dux and other cephalopods.
"These encounters suggest that unobtrusive camera platforms with luminescent lures are effective tools for attracting and studying large deep-sea squids."