Bigfin Squid (genus Magnapinna)

Well, yesterday I got my wisdom teeth removed, so I am in a hazy drug-induced state. Not the best attitude to be writing blog posts in. Also looking at a computer screen for too long makes me nauseous. So, I contacted my wonderful friend in Newfoundland (who’s doing her masters in marine biology) to do a guest post. You may remember her from such posts as the lovely Scallop. She thankfully agreed to write a post, so here it is:

The oceans are big. Really big. There are a lot of weird things living in them, and even though I’ve spent my entire life trying to learn everything I can about them, I’m still surprised almost daily by some new animal or plant discovery that emerges from the depths.  One of these surprises that I think was a surprise for almost everyone I know is a group of animals called Bigfin squids (genus Magnapinna).

Every once and a while a deep sea submarine or camera on an oil drilling rig catches a glimpse of something crazy looking, and the bigfin squid is no exception.  A few years ago, a picture similar to the one below made the rounds on the internet (although certain scientists believe that these pictures are related longarm squids and not true bigfins), and I was as shocked as anyone.

A bigfin squid with its namesake big fins and extremely long, strangely bent tentacles

A bigfin squid with its namesake big fins and extremely long, strangely bent tentacles

This picture is a composite created from a video taken in the Gulf of Mexico at a depth of about 2400m. I strongly recommend taking a look! (Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPRPnQ-dUSo)

As you can see, this animal doesn’t look like a normal squid.  Sure, it’s got 8 tentacles and 2 arms like most of its relatives, but something about them seems…off.  First, those tentacles are LONG.  Second, those 90° bends in the arms and tentacles aren’t just a weird way the squid is holding itself.  They’re like that all the time.  Combine that with the two big fins sticking off of the squid’s body, and you’ve got one strange looking animal.

Several videos exist of bigfin and longarm squids have been taken in the last decade or so, and from them scientists have been able to determine that these animals get quite long – up to about 8 meters from the top of the body to the tip of the tentacles.  Unfortunately for us, like most deep-sea creatures, that’s about all we know about them.  What they eat, how they reproduce, hobbies, interests, dating profiles – all remain unknown.  Some researchers have suggested a rather interesting way of feeding (dragging their tentacles on the sea floor until they find some food) but I think it’s going to be a long time before any of that can be conclusively proven.

Until then, I’m going to keep my eyes on the ocean. It’s given us so many interesting discoveries, and who knows what else is out there just waiting for us to swim deep enough to find it.

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2 thoughts on “Bigfin Squid (genus Magnapinna)

  1. Actually the dating profile of the bigfin squid is fairly well known. They generally date other bigfin squids. However, rebellious bigfin squids have been observed on dates with smallfin squids, much to the dismay of their parents and, in extreme cases, intolerant and officious bigfin squid religious leaders, who have urged other bigfin squid to stone the offenders.

    However, this is usually very ineffective, as bigfin squid are quite incapable of throwing stones, and in any case stones cannot be thrown through water more than a metre or so. Therefore the bigfin squid have to carry the stones above the target, and drop them. Perhaps not surprisingly, there is no record instance of a bigfin squid ever being hit by such stones, although a video recording does exist of an entire school of bigfin squid being destroyed by an angry sperm whale after stones they dropped hit the whale. For many years, marine biologists had thought the bigfin squids had been trying to defend themselves using stones, but recently the puzzle has been pieced together and the full picture has emerged.

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