Scientists have captured the first images of a giant squid hunting in the wild.
The elusive creatures are notoriously difficult to film, as their habitat is hundreds of feet below the sea, where it is dark and the crushing pressure of the water requires specialized equipment.
Although several dead specimens have washed up on the shore, the first still images of a live giant squid in the wild were not recorded until 2004 and video only in 2012.
Now, for the first time, marine biologists have captured images of Architeuthis dux hunting prey in the wild. The images were taken in 2019, but researchers have now released an analysis of the creature’s behavior.
A special platform with a built-in camera captured the elusive marine animal attacking a bait in the Gulf of Mexico nearly 2,500 feet below the surface.
The decoy, called E-Jelly, was designed to attract the squid by mimicking the bioluminescence released by a jellyfish in distress.
Experts previously thought the squid was waiting to ambush its prey, but the video shows it stalking the E-Jelly before going in to kill the prey.
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Photos from video capturing a giant squid (Architeuthis dux) approaching and attacking a decoy constructed by marine biologists
The giant squid, formally known as Architeuthis dux, is one of the most elusive creatures of the inky depths.
It can grow over 12 meters long, from fin to tentacle, and has eyes the size of basketballs.
Its existence has inspired legends of the kraken and other sea monsters for centuries, “ but our knowledge of the great deep-sea cephalopods that inspired this myth remains limited, ” researchers wrote in a new report published in the journal Deep Sea Research Part. I: Oceanographic Research Papers.
Because the squid’s habitat can be more than half a mile below the surface, researchers had to rely on robotic submarines to search for it.
But the sound and bright lights of a drone can scare the photosensitive squid.
So researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) built a ‘trap’ – a platform with a built-in camera to passively pull the squid in.
Video photo of an unidentified squid, possibly Promachoteuthis sloani, recorded by the Medusa in the northern Gulf of Mexico
The E-Jelly (shown) is designed to mimic the bioluminescence of a jellyfish. It was attached to a remote-controlled camera platform called the Medusa to record the encounter with the squid
Using the E-Jelly as a reference point, researchers estimate that the giant squid was at least 4 meters long – probably a young
They baited the remote-controlled platform called the Medusa with ‘E-jelly’, a device with lights that mimic the bioluminescence that a jellyfish emits when in danger.
Giant squid’s eyes focus on shorter wavelength blue light, so they used red light, which the squid can’t see, to capture the encounter.
The trap also worked on smaller squid species. In 2004 and 2005, it attracted two squid, possibly Promachoteuthis sloani, in the Gulf of Mexico and Exuma Sound in the Bahamas.
Previously, only juveniles less than 10 centimeters in length were observed, but these were adults with bodies over a foot in length.
Nearly a decade later, in 2013, the camera picked up another squid, a Pholidoteuthis adami half a meter long.
The Medusa was deployed in various locations off the Gulf of Mexico and the Exuma Sound in the Bahamas. The black circle F indicates where the giant squid was sighted
Common in the Gulf of Mexico and eastern US, Adami can grow over two feet in length, but it is not a giant squid.
Finally, in June 2019, an Architeuthis dux appeared at a depth of about 2,490 feet in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Mobile, Alabama.
It was the first time a giant squid had been filmed in American waters.
At 4 meters in length (excluding tentacles), the specimen is not the largest giant squid ever, but it provided important information about the predatory habits of the species
The squid swam around the platform for a few minutes before going in for the kill.
‘It comes right in, shoots out its arms [and] wraps his arms around the E-Jelly ‘, researcher Nathan Robinson tells New Scientist.
The Medusa filmed the squid circling the E-Jelly for several minutes before launching the attack
Some scientists had previously theorized that the giant squid had just ambushed its prey – because it was so big, it wouldn’t expend energy to hunt.
But the video footage suggests its stems before attacking – using its saucer-like eyes to find meals.
“You feel very alive,” said Robinson. “There’s something instinctive about these animals that captures everyone’s imagination – the wonder that there are huge animals on our planet that we know so little about, and that we’ve only captured on camera a few times.”
Robinson and his colleagues are eager to fine-tune their technique to further observe Architeuthis dux and other cephalopods.
“These encounters suggest that unobtrusive camera platforms with luminous lures are effective tools for attracting and studying large deep-sea squid,” they wrote.