Rare footage shows a squid hauling thousands of eggs across the ocean: a once-in-a-lifetime feat that lasts several months and requires the mother to never let go of their unhatched offspring — not even to eat.
Researchers at the Schmidt Ocean Institute filmed the astonishing footage of a black-eyed squid (Gonatus Onyx) gliding through the deep sea with thousands of eggs suspended from its arms.
The mesmerizing footage was captured off the coast of Costa Rica’s Caballito Outcrop in December.
In the video, the black-eyed squid is seen swimming with thousands of eggs suspended from hooks on its arms through the water — hauling its huge cargo of unhatched offspring like it’s a long cape.
A Once-in-a-Lifetime Feat That Ends in Death
The black-eyed squid, which lives in the deep sea at a depth of around 6,200 feet, is one of only two known species of squid to take care of their eggs once spawned.
However, it is often a perilous feat for mother squid — one which often ends in their ultimate death.
According to a 2005 study in Nature, female black-eyed squid can carry up to 3,000 eggs using claws on their legs that help them keep hold.
The mother clings to these thousands of unhatched offspring which are enveloped in a tube-shaped membrane that opens at both ends, gently extending and retracting her arms to flush the low-oxygen-bearing water through the tubular egg mass.
The eggs’ development period is believed to be between six to nine months. And during this extremely long period, the mother never lets go — even to feed.
Early on, the mother squid can quickly drag her eggs to safety when she encounters danger. However, as the eggs mature, the squid weakens and it becomes increasingly difficult to flee danger and protect her offspring.
As a result of the dangers, black-eyed squid usually only reproduce once in their lifetime and usually die soon after laying their eggs and watching their offspring hatch.
“One of the few squids that brood their eggs: Gonatus Onyx, seen on a recent #OctoOdyssey dive,” the Schmidt Ocean Institute writes in a caption for the video on Instagram.
“The large egg mass is suspended from hooks on the squid’s arms, and while carrying it for several months, the cephalopod will go without feeding.”
Image credits: All photos via Schmidt Ocean Institute.