Editor's note: The author of this article slowly went mad while researching the horrifying and otherworldly long-arm squid. His final email correspondence, which came from an IP address located in a sea realm made of surreal angles and dimensions leading off into nothing, simply asked that his hard drives be erased.
Ten years ago, out in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, a ROV employed by the Shell Oil Company was quietly moving through the chilled, dark waters of Alaminos Canyon. It was nearly 8,000 feet below the ocean's surface, creeping along, inspecting the underwater area around the Perdido oil platform (the deepest offshore drilling site in the world) when its operator came upon a creature that inhabits both the depths of the ocean and the subconscious mind. The strange being from below was a "long-arm squid," a 26-foot-long nightmare with elbowed tentacles and pulsating fins that undulate in a way that says: My kind were here for eons before you, and will be here for eons after you.
Video of the long-arm squid captured by the Shell Oil Co. ROV in the Gulf of Mexico.
Not much is known about the incredibly mysterious long-arm squid, a cephalopod species likely belonging to the genus Magnapinna. Although the first record of this family, Magnapinnidae, dates back to 1907 when Magnapinna talismani was caught off of the Azores, the long-arm squid wasn't visually recorded until 1988 when the crew of the French manned submersible Nautile found one off the coast of Brazil.
None of the crew aboard that expedition survived. (Just kidding, they all survived and were fine, but wouldn't that have been really creepy?)
The reason the long-arm squid can't be definitively classified is because only juvenile specimens of Magnapinnidae (Bigfin squid) have been caught; all of them heavily degraded from the journey to the surface. "It was unfortunately greatly damaged by its stay in the net, and we can therefore give only a very incomplete description of it," said one researcher who found a juvenile specimen. "The tentacles have, among other things, been twisted and broken, and it is impossible to measure their length."
Because no long-arm squid have been caught or studied — only seen in brief glimpses of dark and grainy camera footage — it's too difficult to say at the moment whether they are indeed the adult form of the juvenile Bigfin squids that have been captured.
Along with its exceedingly large pulsating fins, which seem like they could mesmerize you into diving deeper and deeper into the endless depths, the long-arm squid has many other distinguishing physiological traits. For example, its 26-foot-long arms and tentacles are of equal length, and appear to be identical -- unique among squid species. All other known squid species have arms and tentacles that are of different length and physical structure. For example, the placement of suckers varies, and the significantly longer tentacles are used more for controlling prey.
Below is another brief glimpse at the long-arm, captured by the ROV Tiburon in 2001. Here it appears to be both more ghastly and more ghostly, undulating quietly as it probably contemplates how to best slip its tentacle into your ear and around your brain.
Most of the details surrounding the long-arm squid remain shrouded in dark, cold water. It's unclear, for example, exactly how the long-arm squid eats. Some researchers have proposed that it drags its extra-long limbs along the ocean surface, plucking edible organisms and devouring them. Or perhaps the arms remain motionless, and only passively capture prey as it passes by. Or maybe the long-arm squid haven't eaten anything for millennia, and are simply waiting for sea levels to rise so they can invade our coastal cities and turn us into mindless husks. Probably not, but if there were a sea creature capable of doing that, it would be this one, right?
What do you think about these creepy, seemingly supernatural creatures of the deep? Are you attempted to embark on a Lovecraftian voyage to track one of these down and uncover all of its ethereal secrets? Share your thoughts in dark depths of the comments section below.
Images: Shell Oil Co. via YouTube / Animal Wire
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