Two bizarre deep-sea creatures

November 27, 2013 • 10:02 am

First we have a creature that may be new to science. It’s one of the weirdest animals I’ve ever seen, and was captured on film by an oil-rig camera.  I can’t embed the video from, but you can see it at the link in the previous sentence. Do have a look: it’s massively bizarre. I’ve put a screenshot below.

One of Matthew’s friends said it’s just a loose tarpaulin, but I highly doubt that. For one thing, it’s translucent, and for another (viz., screenshot), it seems to have organs. But the video is properly labelled “WTF”. Perhaps some reader can identify it; I think it’s a deep-sea cnidarian (jellyfish):

Picture 1

The second creature has been known for a long time but is elusive, and its biology is almost completely unknown: the bigfin squid(s).  Wikipedia gives some information about the group, which appears to include several species. First a photo, and then some information.  Look at this thing!!


From Wikipedia:

The bigfin squids are a group of rarely seen cephalopods with a distinctive morphology. They are placed in the genus Magnapinna and family Magnapinnidae. Although the family is known only from larval, paralarval, and juvenile specimens, some authorities believe the adult creature has also been seen; several videos have been taken of animals nicknamed the “long-arm squid”, which appear to have a similar morphology. Adult specimens have never been captured or sampled–it remains uncertain if they are the same genus, or only distant relatives.

. . . These videos did not receive any media attention; in any case, most were brief and fairly blurry. However, in May 2001, some ten minutes of crisp footage of a long-armed squid were acquired by ROV Tiburon, causing a flurry of attention when they were released.[JAC: see first video below.] These were taken in the Pacific Ocean north of Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi

On November 11, 2007, a new video of a long-arm squid was filmed off Perdido, a drilling site owned by Shell Oil Company, located 200 statute miles (320 km) off Houston, Texas in the Gulf of Mexico. [JAC: see second video below.]

The specimens in the videos looked very distinct from all previously known squids. Uniquely among cephalopods, the arms and tentacles were of the same length and looked identical (like extinct belemnites). The appendages were also held perpendicular to the body, creating the appearance of strange “elbows”. Most remarkable was the length of the elastic tentacles, which has been estimated at stretching up to 15–20 times the mantle length. Estimates based on video evidence put the total length of the largest specimens at 8 metres (26 ft) or more.On close ups of the body and head, it is also apparent that the fins are extremely large, being proportionately nearly as big as those of bigfin squid larvae. While they do appear similar to the larvae, no specimens or samples of the adults have been taken, leaving their exact identity unknown.

This pictures shows the strange fins.  What they’re for is a mystery:


Below is the 2001 videotape of one of these beasts, with the following notes:

ROV Tiburon, May 2001, north of Oahu, Hawaii (21.9° N, 158.2° W), 3380 m. Squid was videotaped for nearly 10 min. When first encountered, it was hovering vertically in the bent-arm posture with the filamentous appendages touching the sediment-covered bottom. Its body was estimated to be ca. 1 m long and the arm crown 3-4 m.

From Deep Sea News comes the 2007 video of one of these creatures, as well as a photo. The caption says this thing was found 1.5 miles down, far deeper than a human could survive:

On November 11, 2007, a  Shell oil company ROV captured a Magnapinna on video (below) at a depth of 2386 meters (~1.5 miles). Someone (I’ve been unable to track down who created this), used the video to produce a single image of this individual (above).

Another photo:


h/t: Matthew Cobb

The abyssal depths surely contain a panoply of creatures as bizarre is this. It’s dark, food is scarce, and there’s the problem of finding each other to mate. That will create all sorts of weird adaptations and morphologies.

23 thoughts on “Two bizarre deep-sea creatures

  1. 1)Now I will never sleep; scary underwater animals have murdered sleep, and therefore MacPherson will sleep no more.
    2) That plasticy looking animal is so plasticy, I can’t decide if it’s actually plastic.
    3) That last picture of the squid makes it look like a Pholcidae spider (cellar spider).

    1. Are you sure these things live on our planet?

      Few things impress (scare) me more than what we have not seen under the sea (and I am not talking SpongeBob).

  2. From a comment from your source cite:

    “Experts like Southern Cross University marine biology lecturer Dr. Daniel Bucher, believed that this creature resembled “a very unusual shape deep sea jellyfish”, the sex organs give it away , he said. Others thought that the creature was a Stygiomedusa Gigantea jellyfish which can grow up to six meters in length and has only been spotted 114 times in 110 years.

    But alas the verdict has been finally reached, the species is in fact a (collapsed) Deepstaria Enigmatica, a rare jellyfish species that resembles a translucent satin sheet or “lava lamp”. Less..
    Posted Sep-19-2013 By stesan (105.52)


      1. Holy moses, is that thing real? It’s so – squirmy, and so writhey.

        I thought the Bobbit worm was bad… I’m going to wake screaming tonight.

        WEIT – for those who think Lovecraft was tame…

    1. I thought it looked (at times) remarkably sheet-like, but then it would suddenly move as if there were muscles (or some sort of equivalent) operating. And then those white things which I thought looked like sex organs appeared. It seems I was right…

      So, we’ve all just been flashed by a jellyfish 🙂

    1. Sorry, but this rreminds me of a Murdoch rag colloquially known as The Scum in the UK with it’s “Phage three” girls. No envelopes on those capsids!

        1. Oh, it is. There are certain cities in Britain where the paper doesn’t get any sales, where shops refuse to stock it, because of their past reporting of events. Specifically, The Scum claimed that the supporters of Liverpool Football Club who were caught up in a “crush disaster” (at Hillsborough stadium, if you’re unfamiliar with the case ; 90-odd dead IIRC) were responsible for the disaster (by being drunk), were seen to be robbing the dead and injured, and various other scandalous allegations. All totally false. It’s a real stain on Murdoch’s (always dirty) reputation.

  3. Nice collection of the weird and wonderful. The ROV pilots have been reporting these things for years and there are now several academics who’re routinely capturing the data. With new discoveries and increased sample sizes for known organisms, as you say. I must remember to ask the pilots if they’ve got any video nasties in the cabinet when I get back out there.

  4. For the 1st creature, I was leaning toward it being just a big sheet of slime, but the descriptions above about it being a collapsed, enigmatic jellyfish are pretty convincing. Looking closely, one can just barely make out the reticular pattern on the skin that is a feature of this bizarre creature.
    I think the squid uses its arms as ‘fishing lines’ to snag prey, which are going to be scarce in the abyss in which it lives.

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