Photograph courtesy Rainer von Brandis
Vladimir Laptikhovsky, a biologist with the Falkland Islands' Fisheries Department, displays the new squid species. Photograph courtesy Rainer von Brandis.
Published November 16, 2010
A large new species of deep red, glowing squid has been discovered living near undersea mountains in the southern Indian Ocean, scientists announced Monday.
At about 28 inches (70 centimeters) long, the as yet unnamed species is relatively big—though other squid can reach as long as 65 feet (20 meters), some species are barely three quarters of an inch (1.5 centimeters).
The new species belongs to Chiroteuthidae, a group of slender squid in which light-producing organs run in the family. (Related: "Colossal Squid Has Glowing 'Cloaking Device,' Huge Eyes.")
"It's thought that this particular group of squid actually uses bioluminescence to lure in prey," which are thought to include small fish and crustaceans, said Alex Rogers, a conservation biologist at the University of Oxford in the U.K.
The new squid is just one of more than 70 squid species observed during a six-week research cruise that began in September 2009 but whose results are only now beginning to be released.
"In a single expedition, we sampled about a fifth of all the world's squid species that are known to date," Rogers said. "That's really a staggering diversity of squid to sample in a single trip."
Most of the squid observed were already known to science, but, in addition to the blinking beast above, a few are thought to be completely new species.
"We think we have more than one new species of squid," Rogers said. "This just happens to be the biggest and most glamorous one."
Mountains of Food for Squid and Other Species
The aim of the research cruise, led by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), was to document the abundance of marine life associated with underwater mountains. (Read more about the project on National Geographic's Mission Blue website.)
Scientists estimate there are tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of seamounts—undersea mountains rising more than 0.6 mile (1 kilometer) high—scattered throughout the world's oceans.
On the single 2009 expedition alone, Rogers said, "We got a tremendous variety of ... animals, including over 200 fish species and a large collection of crustaceans as well."
One reason seamounts appear to be such biological hot spots is that the submerged peaks act as food traps for squid and other creatures living on or around them.
The undersea mountains often block the daily vertical migration of plankton and other microorganisms from the ocean's surface to its depths, Rogers explained.
"The animals," he said, "can just sit on the seamounts and feed on what drifts by."
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