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Midwater Ecology Expedition Fall 2019 – Log 3

The researchers are studying vision in deep-sea animals like this unusual piglet squid, Helicocranchia. Image by Kat Bolstad.

Midwater Ecology Expedition Fall 2019 – Log 3

Kat Bolstad

The cock-eyed squid or strawberry squid, Histioteuthis heteropsis, photographed in the lab by Kat Bolstad.

It is wonderful to be back at sea. I’ve had the honor of sailing with the Western Flyer crew several times before, but not since 2015 (life and small children have happened in the meantime), so it’s great to be back aboard. And this cruise has gotten off to a wonderfully squiddy start for me—I lead a deep-sea squid research group in New Zealand (the AUT Lab for Cephalopod Ecology & Systematics) and the opportunity to see our animals in their natural environment is always a thrilling one.

In our first couple of days we’ve already seen nearly ten different taxa, including the always-intriguing “cock-eyed” squids (Histioteuthidae), delicate alien-looking “glass squids” (Cranchiidae), long-necked siphonophore-mimicking chiroteuthids, and even an “adolescent” vampire squid, in the transitional phase between baby and adult morphology where, for a short time, it has four fins instead of two. On the seafloor at 2,000 meters (6,561 feet) we came across a small octopus, and we’ve also seen a fair few zippy little Gonatus streaking past the camera in the upper layers.  An evening net tow brought in a rare paralarval (baby) Octopoteuthis, which has hooks all along the arms instead of suckers and a long photophore (light organ) at each arm tip.

The researchers are studying vision in deep-sea animals like this unusual piglet squid, Helicocranchia. Image by Kat Bolstad.

These observations will contribute to a number of different research projects we have underway, including a survey of visual capabilities and retinal structure in deep-sea oegopsid squids, and improving understanding of Pacific cephalopod diversity and interrelationships—especially since our glass squid specimen, Helicocranchia, is probably a new species! This family was recently reviewed in the Pacific ocean (see Aaron Evans’ thesis) which puts us in a good position to compare what we see here with what is known from the region and elsewhere in the same ocean basin. I’m hoping we’ll see a few more glass squid species—likely Galiteuthis phyllura and Taonius borealis—as these are some of my personal favorites to observe, being some of the very strangest among an already pretty bizarre group. Tentacles crossed!

About Midwater Ecology Expedition Fall 2019

November 15-21, 2019 – The Midwater Ecology Group is studying and collecting midwater animals in conjunction with collaborators from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research and Auckland University.