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“They are calling you on a squid phone”



Earlier this week, a remote-controlled car named SuBastian stared at the burritos at a depth of 2,700 feet underwater in the North Great Barrier Reef. From a distance, this is what this creature looks like: an unbaked cylinder floating in the twilight zone of the ocean, floating upright, like something taken from Triton.

Above the waves, in the control room of the Schmidt Institute of Oceanography research ship, pilot Jason Rodriguez and copilot Kris Ingram navigate Subasti Ann, brought it close to an unidentified floating object, which was sprayed and swayed several times before being washed into the water. focus. This animal is about the same length as a breakfast sausage, with thin fins and a big eye.

“What the hell is going on?” Dugal Lindsay muttered to himself as he was drinking morning coffee in the office of the Japan Marine Geoscience and Technology Bureau or Jamstec in Kanagawa Prefecture. Marine biologist Dr. Lindsay once zoomed in to watch the YouTube live broadcast, in which 16 tentacled jellyfish and an Apolemia siphon, a colony animal similar to a string of fairy lights have been discovered. Dr. Lindsay’s Zoom feed is obscure, and the burritos seemed a mystery at first.

The day before, SuBastian discovered a coral reef higher than the Empire State Building, and the chief scientist interviewed back to back in another room. Therefore, Valerie Cornet, a master’s student in marine biology at James Cook University, and Dr. Lindsay narrated the story together. Just before the creature swayed off the screen, Ms. Cornet speculated that it might be a squid.

Meanwhile, at approximately 10:30 in the evening, in Washington, DC, Mike Vecchione was about to go to bed. Dr. Vecchione, a zoologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, has been watching SuBastian diving, but called it diving on the day the feed malfunctioned. He recalled that suddenly, a message from a colleague, biologist Christopher Mah, came on a phone call: “Mike Vichyoni, they are calling you on the squid phone.”

When Dr. Vecchione made a good observation of the image, he knew exactly what it was: spirula or ram’s horned squid. Jay C. Hunt, a biologist at East Stroudsburg University, believes that spirulina is the only living squid with an internal spiral shell, which hides under the flap of its rear end. The squid can also emit lime green light from the large phosphor behind it.

Dr. Vecchione and other experts were surprised. For a long time, biologists and drifters stumbled upon white spirulina shells stranded on the coasts of the world. But no one has seen this animal alive in its natural habitat.

Rebecca Helm, a biologist at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, said: “This is this mysterious animal.” “It’s like the elf-sized version of a giant squid.”

Jamstec biologist Chong Chen said: “This may indeed be the first time a living animal has been captured in a natural habitat.”

Although the discovery of spirulina may be science-first, it did not leave a strong initial impression on the researchers on board. Ms. Cornette said: “When we saw bobtail squid and crayfish octopus, we said, “Wow, this is the cutest thing. “This person looks weird, looking at us with weird eyes.” “

Perhaps more surprising than the creature’s cameo is its strange location. Scientists have always believed that the head of spirulina is facing down and the air-filled bottom is swimming. He said that when Dr. Vecchione used a trawl to catch live spirulina onto a boat and put it out with cold water, the “living” squid always floated.

This assumption is reasonable. After all, the squid’s air cavity shell floats on it like a nautilus. But this raises another question. Creatures with higher living standards usually point their fluorescent lights downwards, thereby disguising their outlines from predators lurking below. On the other hand, emitting green light to the sky has no clear purpose. Dr. Vecchione said: “This is neither common nor reasonable.”

However, the spirulina captured by the camera is clearly looking head-up, which indicates that the fluorescent body staring downward is likely to be used for backlighting after all. “It makes sense,” Dr. Vecchione said.

Although the mystery of the fluorophore can now be solved, the Spirula on the right side seems to have a balance problem. The squid’s weight is unstable on its floating shell. Dr. Lindsay said: “When designing an ROV, you don’t put heavy objects on it and float on the bottom.”

The video can provide clarity. Dr. Hunter said that analyzing the wave pattern of the fin can reveal how the squid hangs still in the water. He said: “Usually, we can see squid breathing through the funnel, but in this case it is not.” “This shows that staying completely still is the main defense for this little guy.”

All signs indicate that Spirulina, or at least this particular Spirulina, is shy. Unlike more free-wheeling cephalopods, cuttlefish fix their arms in a cone. Dr. Vecchione said that this posture allows the squid to stretch its head into the mantle and seal it like a turtle. He speculated that this would protect the squid from small carnivores (such as amphibians), which would “chew anything they could catch.”

Towards the end of the video, Spirula blows up his cloak with water, causing it to eventually escape to the depths-also very fast for creatures shaped like long potatoes. Dr. Hunter was surprised by the spray speed of this animal, because its gas-filled shell may not be able to respond well to rapid pressure changes.

But Spirula’s speed did not shock Dr. Vecchione. He said, “After all, this is a squid.” “It can do cunning things.”

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