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Planet Earth

20,000 Leagues Under

By Solana PyneApril 1, 2002 6:00 AM


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In the inky depths of the ocean, scientists have spied a translucent squid with oversize fins and angel-hair tentacles long enough to hug an SUV. First spotted off Brazil in 1988, the deep-sea curiosity was seen seven more times over the next 13 years before anyone could get a good look. Then cephalopod biologist Michael Vecchione of the National Marine Fisheries Service in Washington, D.C., saw the squid up close in video footage taken by a submersible in the Gulf of Mexico. The stringy creature, as yet unnamed, reaches 23 feet in length. Vecchione suspects it is the adult version of a peculiar squid he and his colleagues had previously identified from three juvenile specimens. These creatures may look freakish, but they could be ubiquitous more than a mile below the surface, where all the sightings have occurred. Scientists still know little about the ecosystem at those depths. "This is just one example of a large animal that is completely unknown. There's a huge volume of space that needs to be explored," Vecchione says.


Photograph courtesy of Texas A & M University

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