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Unusual footage shows a mysterious, alien-like squid gliding through the Gulf of Mexico.

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  • Tip Bones

Scientists recently obtained spectacular footage of a ghostly squid with massive, iridescent fins and weird, elbow-like bends in its tentacles during an excursion in the Gulf of Mexico.

According to an NOAA Ocean Exploration statement, there have been fewer than 20 documented sightings of this deep-sea mollusk known as a bigfin squid (Magnapinna), and this current encounter adds one more to the list.

NOAA scientists discovered the elusive squid during their recent "Windows to the Deep 2021: Southeast ROV and Mapping voyage," which examined poorly studied deepwater areas in the western Atlantic Ocean off the southeastern United States. 

The researchers saw a set of spindly blue appendages drifting by their remotely operated vehicle while shooting underwater near the West Florida Escarpment - a steep slope in the seafloor that separates shallow coastal waters from the deep Gulf of Mexico (ROV).

The camera pans out to reveal the bigfin squid in all its magnificence, with its eight arms and two tentacles strewn behind it. The creature's huge fins, which protrude from the creature's main body, known as the mantle, rippling softly in the water, similar to how stingray fins flap. The squid's organs are held in the see-through mantle, which looks pale yellow and pink in the light of the ROV.

As the bigfin squid approached, Mike Vecchione, a research zoologist with the NOAA Fisheries National Systematics Laboratory and the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, was onshore watching the ROV film on a satellite feed. According to a study in the South African Journal of Marine Science, he and Richard E. 

Young of the University of Hawaii was the first to describe the Magnapinnidae family of bigfin squids in 1998. According to the NOAA statement, three species of bigfin squid have been described since then, but there may be more bigfin squid species to discover.

When the bigfin squid appeared on the ROV feed, Vecchione immediately called the vehicle operators to convey his expertise of the critter, according to the statement. In the NOAA camera footage, Vecchione can be heard saying, "Magnapinna... all of their arms and tentacles have this extension on them, long, spaghetti-like extension." 

"It's really difficult to distinguish the arms from the tentacles, which is rare for a squid." The bigfin squid extends all of its limbs from its body, forming the unique elbow-like dips that distinguish its tentacles.

According to the statement, the squid was sighted swimming roughly 7,825 feet (2,385 metres) beneath the water surface, but bigfin squid has been spotted as deep as 15,535 feet (4,735 m) down in the past.

Bigfin cephalopods are extensively distributed throughout the world's deep ocean habitats, but it's uncertain how many there are in total because the cephalopods are so rarely seen.

 Last year, scientists reported finding five of the squid near the Great Australian Bight, a vast gulf in South Australia – the first sighting of a bigfin squid in Australian waters.