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A new species of squid has been discovered - with huge arms

Animals / Observations from the depths of the ocean that lasted more than a decade revealed an unknown marine creature

by Tamara Traubman

Photo: Sceince the newly discovered squid - as observed at a depth of 5-2 kilometers in various ocean depths. Researchers first noticed the squid in 1988

In the last decade, even when new species of animals were occasionally discovered, it was almost always small animals, such as insects. However, today a multinational team of scientists will report on the discovery of an unknown species of squid that lives in the dark depths of the oceans.

The arms of the squid are larger than any other species discovered so far. In a report to be published today in the scientific journal "Science", the researchers write that based on observations it turned out that the length of the squid's arms reaches at least seven meters. It was also discovered that the squid holds its arms in an unusual position: first it extends the ten arms outward, and only then bends them inward, like an elbow.

The head of the research team, Dr. Mike Vakion of the Washington Natural History Museum in the US, said he was surprised by the discovery. "The discovery of an unusual species like this", he said, "shows that although oceans cover more than two-thirds of the Earth, information about their population is still relatively limited". The researchers have not yet given a name to the discovered species, explaining in the report that they will be able to identify it with certainty only when one of its kind is captured.

"I've seen a lot of squid before, but I've never seen a creature like this," said William Sager, a professor of oceanography at Texas A&M University. According to him, squids "usually have long hunting arms, the length of which is several times greater than the length of their body. But in this squid, the hunting arms were ten times longer than its body length. The arms also looked much thinner and weaker than those of normal squids."

The researchers noticed the squid for the first time in September 1988 during a scan of the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean from a French submarine named "Nautil".

The squid swam at a depth of about 4.7 kilometers off the coast of Brazil. The French team reported the sighting to Dr. Vacion, who is also the director of the US National Laboratory for Marine Systematics and heads the "Squid Squad" of the National Museum of Nature. By virtue of his duties, he and his team describe and give names to new species of marine creatures, and update, following new information, the existing ones.

Dr. Vakyon documented the findings of the French observation, and continued to follow similar reports. Until May of this year, he and his colleagues - including researchers from Japan, France and Spain - observed about seven more similar squids. These were discovered in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Africa; in the Indian Ocean; in the Gulf of Mexico and the central Pacific Ocean.

Most of the squids were not initially afraid of the submarine, says Sager, who discovered one of the squids found in the Gulf of Mexico. "The squid we saw just hovered there, staring at us, as if it thought the submarine was a whale with lights.

"We saw that they were able to escape by swimming quickly," Sager added, "but some of them, even when they touched the submarine, just nobly flapped their wing-like organs attached to their bodies and slowly moved away from the scene. "The fact that the squid was seen eight times in just a few years suggests that it is a fairly common species," Sager concluded.

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