The cascading offspring skirt of a deep-sea squid was recently spotted at a depth of 1,390 meters (4,560 feet) in Monterey Bay, roughly 90 kilometers (56 miles) off the coast of California. Described as an “incredibly rare sight” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) who made the observation, the Bathyteuthis sp. squid mom is carrying hundreds of eggs that appear to glow under the remote operating vehicle (ROV), known as Doc Ricketts’, lights.
The stunning footage that followed shows the squid looking (if you’ll allow us to indulge in a spot of anthropomorphizing, here) pretty darn proud of her clutch, and so she should be. Suspended in a shimmering scarf, it’s expected the eggs are carried in this way to keep them safe from predators.
In a competition for Squid Parent of the Year, Bathyteuthis probably comes out nearer the top considering most squids either dump their eggs on the floor or leave them to drift through the oceans as unattended blobs. The nurturing nature of these deep-sea squid was first observed by MBARI back in 2005 when another mother was seen holding a sheet of eggs as she drifted through the water.
“Scientists think these nurturing mothers will carry the eggs until they hatch to improve their babies’ chances for survival,” said MBARI in a statement. “Brooding is common among bottom-dwelling octopuses, but we’ve only observed this behavior in three squid species.”
While it’s suspected that there may be other deep-sea squid who practice this approach to parenting, how likely it is we’ll see it any time soon isn’t clear. Doc Ricketts is able to explore at depths beyond our reach, poking about in the pelagic with the aid of human pilots, but even still, being in the right place at the right time when it comes to marine animal behavior is a bit like trying to find a needle in a stack of moving needles.
That said, it didn’t stop MBARI from making another exceptionally rare observation back in May when researchers came across a highfin dragonfish (Bathophilus flemingi), something they’ve only seen four times in more than three decades of deep-sea research.
However, considering this latest sighting of Bathyteuthis carrying her blankie of eggs marks just the second time the behavior has been seen in 17 years, it could be a while before we discover any new species of maternal deep-sea squid moms.