Scientists Capture Never-Before-Seen Footage of Deep-Sea Squid Cradling Huge Eggs

Scientists have captured incredible footage of a deep-sea mother squid clutching dozens of unusually huge eggs.

The newly-released video was captured by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute’s (MBARI) advanced underwater robots, including remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) during an expedition to Mexico’s Gulf of California.

A deep-sea squid with a reddish-brown body and large eyes is swimming in dark water. Its long arms are extended forward, and numerous small particles are floating around the squid, likely marine snow.

The footage shows a deep-dwelling mother squid cradling about a cluster of 40 strikingly large eggs — each egg twice as large as any other ever observed of other brooding deep-sea squids.

Typically deep-sea squid produce thousands of tiny eggs, as many as 3,000 all at once, but the new species was spotted holding and protecting only about 30 to 40 exceptionally large eggs instead.

The researchers suspect a lack of predators in the deep sea, or possibly a more stable food supply, enabled this squid to evolve reproductive habits that devoted more resources to fewer eggs, rather than the approach of many tiny eggs.

‘A Remarkable Sighting’

By analyzing the video footage and studying specimens of similar-looking squids collected on previous expeditions to the Gulf of California, the MBARI research team determined this was likely a previously unknown species of the animal in the family Gonatidae.

“The deep sea is the largest living space on Earth and there is a lot left to be discovered,” MBARI Senior Scientist Steven Haddock, who was chief scientist during the expedition that encountered this brooding squid, says in a statement.

“Our unexpected encounter with a squid brooding giant eggs caught the attention of everyone in the ship’s control room. This remarkable sighting underscores the diversity of ways that animals adapt to the unique challenges of living in the deep.”

Close-up underwater image of a deep-sea squid. The squid's elongated arms and tentacles are orange-toned, with round, translucent eggs nestled between them. The background is deep blue with scattered particles, likely marine snow.

The footage was captured by scientists back in 2015 during an expedition to study animals that live in an extremely oxygen-poor environment. However, the video and the findings from the deep-sea expedition were only revealed last month in a study published in the journal Ecology.

According to LiveScience, it is extremely rare to capture footage of brooding deep-sea squid. These animals are rarely seen alive at depth and little is known about how they reproduce in a dark and cold environment, where oxygen and food are limited.

MBARI scientists launched ROVs into the deep basin of the Gulf of California and spotted this mother squid at around 8,418 feet deep. MBARI scientists have observed 17 squid mothers cradling their eggs over 37 years of exploration.

Image credits: All photos by MBARI.