Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
2010 Expedition to the Sea
  • August 29 - September 2, 2010

Day 5 – Studying deep-sea squid
August 30, 2010

One aim in my research on the age and growth of midwater animals is to validate increment deposition in squid statoliths. Statoliths are aragonite structures in the cartilaginous brain of squid. They are small (1-2 mm, even in Architeuthis!) and they are even present in the squid when the squid is still inside the egg. During the squid’s life, increments are laid down in the statolith. In coastal species increment deposition was validated 25 years ago and they were found to be laid down daily. Counting the number of rings inside the squid statolith therefore gives an accurate estimate of the age in days. Age determination of coastal squid show they are fast growing and generally short lived (1-2 years).

The swordtail squid Chiroteuthis
Chiroteuthis calyx juveniles have a long, sword-like tail that is dropped as it matures.

Squid are very successful in the deep-sea. They range from small species of several tens of mm in length at maturity to giant squid which may grow to over 200 kilograms! Deep-sea squid also lay down increments in their statoliths. However, the periodicity of increment deposition has never been validated for any deep-sea squid. Consequently age and growth rates are unknown for deep-sea squid.

The cockatoo squid Galiteuthis
Galiteuthis phyllura has a clear body covered in chromatophores (pigmented organs) that can expand to make the squid’s body appear to go from clear to red.

During the last few days we have been successful in capturing a wide variety and large number of squid using samplers on the ROV Doc Ricketts. In the lab I have exposed them to a solution with a fluorescent marker (tetracycline), which I hope will be incorporated into the statolith. We aim to keep the squid for as long as possible in the lab to allow ring deposition in the statolith to happen. By comparing the number of elapsed days with the number of rings that have formed after the mark, we will know periodicity of ring formation. The same technique will be used to determine the age of two eelpouts, common deep-sea fish that occur in these waters.

On this, my first expedition on the Western Flyer, I’ve been happy to see and collect living deep-sea squids and to have the chance to observe their interesting behavior in situ. I’m excited to contribute information of the general life-history strategies of these poorly known organisms.

— Henk-Jan Hoving

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 Daily Expedition Logs

Heading home
September 1, 2010

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A growing collection
August 31, 2010

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Studying deep-sea squid
August 30, 2010

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Squids and ancient relatives
August 29, 2010

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Transects and collections
August 28, 2010

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A blustery day
August 27, 2010

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Transit and Jellies
August 26, 2010

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R/V Western Flyer

The R/V Western Flyer is a small water-plane area twin hull (SWATH) oceanographic research vessel measuring 35.6 meters long and 16.2 meters wide. It was designed and constructed for MBARI to serve as the support vessel for ROV operations. Her missions include the Monterey Bay as well as extended cruises to Hawaii, Gulf of California, and the Pacific Northwest.

ROV Doc Ricketts

ROV Doc Ricketts is MBARI's next generation ROV. The system breaks new ground in providing an integrated unmanned submersible research platform, with many powerful features providing efficient, reliable and precise sampling and data collection in a wide range of missions.

Midwater respirometry system (MRS)

The MRS conducts oxygen consumption rate measurements in situ, gauging the metabolism of animals without subjecting them to the stresses of transport to the surface. MRS has been modified to operate in deeper water with an expanded capacity, enabling respiration studies on animals that live deeper than 1250 meters.

Detritus sampler

Detritus samplers are large Plexiglas containers with lids that can be manipulated by the pilot of the ROV and gently closed once an organism is trapped inside.


The CTDO is mounted on the ROV and takes in situ measurements of environmental parameters such as conductivity, temperature, depth, and oxygen concentration.

High frequency suction sampler

This sampler acts like a vacuum cleaner sucking up samples and depositing them into one of the 12 buckets.

 Research Team

Bruce Robison
Senior Scientist, MBARI

Bruce Robison's research is focused on the biology and ecology of deep-sea animals, particularly those that inhabit the oceanic water column. He pioneered the use of undersea vehicles for these studies and he led the first team of scientists trained as research submersible pilots. At MBARI, his research group has focused on the development of remotely operated vehicles as platforms for deep-sea science. His midwater research program is presently measuring the oxygen consumption rates of deep-living animals, and the ecological impacts of the declining oxygen content of the ocean's midwaters. Instead of bringing animals to the surface for these measurements and subjecting them to decompression, the measurements are made at depth using new instrumentation developed by MBARI's engineers. Related investigations include studies on the ecology, physiology, and behavior of fishes, squid, and a variety of gelatinous animals.

Kim Reisenbichler
Senior Research Technician, MBARI

Kim's general area of interest is the study of midwater and deep sea animals. He has developed many tools and techniques to observe, manipulate, and collect these organisms, and to maintain the animals in the lab.

Rob Sherlock
Senior Research Technician, MBARI

Rob studies the properties and organisms of the ocean's largest habitat, the midwater. His research group is learning more about the ecology of midwater organisms; their abundance and seasonal patterns, depth ranges and who eats whom. Rob enjoys watching mesopelagic animals with the HD (high definition) camera; animals that once would have come up as glop in a net can be seen to have delicate structure and complex behavior (e.g., squid inking or changing color, fish eyes that rotate to keep prey in sight, an amphipod carving up a pyrosome to make a home).

Kris Walz
Research Assistant, MBARI

Kris works with the Midwater Ecology group, analyzing ROV video transects between 50 and 1,000 meters in depth to identify biological organisms from all taxonomic levels, most of which spend their entire lives in the oceanic water column. Kris started working at MBARI in 1996 after finishing her Master's at UC Santa Cruz. She's looking forward to returning to sea this month to collect video transects and search for deep-sea lobster larvae from the family Polychelidae.

Susan von Thun
Research Technician, MBARI

Susan works in the MBARI video lab, where her primary responsibility is to watch video taken with MBARI's remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and make observations about the organisms, behaviors, equipment, and geological features that she sees. While annotating video, she's become adept at identifying numerous deep-sea organisms, specializing in midwater organisms. She works closely with the midwater ecology group and the bioluminescence lab to expand her knowledge of the fish, jellies, cephalopods, and other groups in the midwater.

Henk-Jan Hoving
Postdoctoral Fellow, MBARI

Henk-Jan received his Ph.D in Ocean Ecosystems from the University of Groningen. Henk-Jan has developed an experimental program of both laboratory and in situ research that will chemically mark increments in the deposition of squid statoliths. Using the marks as temporal reference points, the pattern of deposition should allow him to determine the age of any squid.

Karen Osborn
Postdoctoral Fellow,
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Karen's research interests include evolution of pelagic life, phylogenetics of marine invertebrates, and mechanisms of speciation in the open ocean and the deep sea. Karen is a former MBARI graduate research assistant and is currently a University of California President's Postdoctoral Fellow at Scripps.

Meghan Powers
Graduate Research Assistant, MBARI

Meghan is a doctoral candidate at UC Santa Cruz in Dr. Steve Haddock's lab. Her research is focused on understanding the molecular biology and evolution of bioluminescence in a variety of deep-sea zooplankton including cephalopods, chaetognaths, and jellyfish.

Sam Urmy
University of Washington

Samuel is a graduate student at the University of Washington. His research uses DEIMOS, a deep-water acoustics package at the MARS observatory on the continental slope in Monterey Bay, California to describe the distribution and density of animals such as krill through the entire water column through time. His aim is to describe changing patterns in this density distribution using a variety of metrics and indicators derived from the raw data, with the aim of gaining a clearer picture of how this system behaves.