Dec. 21, 2001 COLLEGE STATION - Texas A&M University oceanographer William Sager spotted and photographed an unusual squid while investigating natural oil seeps deep in the Gulf of Mexico. The results of his serendipitous encounter will appear in this Friday's (Dec. 21) edition of the prestigious research journal Science, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
"I've seen plenty of squid before," said Sager, a professor in both the departments of geology/geophysics and oceanography at Texas A&M, who observed the squid during a dive aboard the submersible ALVIN last summer. "Usually, they have long prehensile tentacles, several times longer than their bodies, but this squid was different. It had thin tentacles that stretched six to eight feet, at least, more like ten times its body length. And the tentacles looked much thinner and weaker than on a more usual squid.
"I had never seen anything like this creature," he continued. "It just hung there, looking at us, as if suddenly seeing ALVIN float up like a whale with lights was no big deal. We photographed and videotaped it for five to ten minutes, and when we got to shore, we went looking for someone who could identify it."
That someone was M. Vecchione of the National Marine Fisheries Service, Systematics Laboratory, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C. He confirmed that the squid in Sager's photos has also been observed in the depths of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans.
The Science article points out that the squid can't be positively identified until specimens are captured, but it appears to be a new species. Videos taken by Sager will be available on the Web at the AAAS's EurekAlert! site.
Also listed as authors of the article are R. E. Young, University of Hawaii; A. Guerra, A.F. Gonzalez and F. J. Roche, ECOBIOMAR, Instituto de Investigacionas Marina, Spain; D.J. Lindsay, Japan Marine Science and Technology Center; D.A. Clague, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute; J.M. Bernhard, University of South Carolina; and M. Segonzac, IFREMER/CENTOB, France.
"During my dives to explore the ocean's depths, I've encountered numerous odd and unusual creatures," Sager said. "The significance of this squid is that it has been seen only eight times, but sightings have been worldwide, suggesting this critter is widespread.
"Then, too, the fact that we are still finding previously unknown creatures in the year 2001 just highlights scientists' depth of ignorance about the deep oceans."
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