SCIENCE

Scientists Get Up Close And Personal With Super Rare, 'Smiling' Squid

This animal is straight-up weird.

Go ahead and file this creature under bizarre.

While exploring some of the Hawaiian archipelago's most remote and unexplored waters earlier this year, a team of scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration encountered this rare Dana octopus squid, or Taningia danae.

LiveScience reports the squid has "what look like waxy red lips" and features "spectacular lighting equipment, with two of its muscular arms ending in lidded light organs called 'photophores.'" 

The Dana octopus squid appears to have red lips, though it's actually a funnel used to eject water from the mantle
The Dana octopus squid appears to have red lips, though it's actually a funnel used to eject water from the mantle cavity and propel the animal in reverse.

"One thing that is really noteworthy is if you watch that video you can see two lights flashing at the tips of two of the squids’ arms," NOAA squid expert Michael Vecchione told Smithsonian Science News of the footage of the animal. "T. danae has the largest photophores -- light producing organs -- of any animal that we know of. They are so bright that you can see them even though the lights of the sub are turned on which is really unusual."

Vecchione said the photophores are likely used as a defensive mechanism or to freeze their prey.

As for what looks like a smiling, red-lipped mouth, it's really a funnel used to eject water from the mantle cavity and propel the animal in reverse, as a NOAA scientist describes in the video. 

And if its otherworldly appearance wasn't enough, watch as the creature comes in close for a hug and kiss with NOAA's remotely operated vehicle.

The squid, LiveScience reports, is similar in size to a "whiplash squid" -- which scientists initially mistook it for -- but lacks the two long feeding tentacles that are common in most other squids. 

As the explorers wrote in a dive update Sept. 19, the "one to two-meter squid attached itself to the back of ROV Deep Discoverer (D2) and hung out there for several minutes before coming around to the front of the vehicle, allowing us to get some great imagery of it."

The footage was captured during a 69-day expedition called "Hohonu Moana" ("Deep Ocean," in the Hawaiian language), which provided the general public with front-row seats to Hawaii's rarely seen deep-sea ecosystems. The goals of the mission included identifying and characterizing vulnerable marine habitats and collecting information on the complex geological history of the Central Pacific seamounts. 

The Dana octopus squid is just one of many incredible critters photographed during the Hohonu Moana expedition.

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