Scientists scanning the rocky ocean floor off Southern California could not contain their excitement when they spotted a bright purple, googly-eyed stubby squid.
They let out a collective “whoa” on video posted on the Exploration Vessel Nautilus’ Facebook page as a camera on a remote-operated vehicle came across the iridescent cephalopod with giant round eyes.
Then the jokes started, as one suggested it resembled a child’s dropped toy, and another said the creature’s eyes appeared to be painted on.
“It looks so fake,” says one member of the team on the Nautilus. The creature looks like a cross between a squid and an octopus but is closely related to a cuttlefish, according to the Nautilus Live website.
The find could be more than just bemusing.
“In addition to the googly-eyed cuteness, there is one thing biologically interesting about this observation,” said cephalopod expert Michael Vecchione of the Smithsonian Institution.
The creature could be a new species, he wrote in an email to the expedition.
It was spotted at nearly 900m deep, which is unusual, but not unheard of. However, on top of that, the stubby squid did not have chromatophores, cells that allow it to change colour, as members of its species do, Mr Vecchione said.
The question cannot be answered because this particular stubby squid remains deep in the ocean, out of scientists’ reach.
The Nautilus team is part of a four-month Ocean Exploration Trust expedition to map underwater fault zones from Canada to California and understand ecosystems around them.
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