I grew up wanting to be a marine biologist. So to me, news that a super-rare piglet squid was photographed off the coast of remote Pacific territories is pretty exciting! And even if you didn’t have ambitions to explore the vast ocean like I did, we can all appreciate how adorable this sea creature is.
During an expedition through Kingman Reef, Palmyra Atoll and Jarvis Island, a region described as the “least explored U.S. holdings in the Pacific Ocean” by the Nautilus Live website, a team of scientists came across the little see-through squid.
Named the “piglet squid” thanks to an oversized siphon that has the appearance of a snout, the Nautilus Live site says these cute sea creatures are able to regulate buoyancy through their ammonia-filled internal chambers.
What causes the cute smile that can be spotted on the cephalopod? According to the Sierra Club, the piglet squid swims at oblique angles caused by the ratio of ammonium to sodium. This, in combination with the large siphon, gives the squid its adorable profile.
The team from the Nautilus exploration vehicle was clearly excited about viewing the “weird reindeer,” as you can tell from the video:
“This is really cool. It looks like a bloated squid with tiny tentacles and a little hat that’s waving around,” said the scientists in the video, who aren’t sure exactly what they’re seeing. “It looks like it has a massive mantle cavity. I’ve never seen anything that looks like this before.”
The squid was found about 4,544 feet below the ocean surface near the Palmyra Atoll. The deep-sea expedition went from June 23-July 13 and its main goals were to characterize the seafloor using bathymetric mapping systems, which can map sea floor topography in places that hasn’t been done before. The 2019 expedition used remotely operated vehicles to learn more about the region’s “geological, biological, and oceanographic patterns and processes,” states the website.
The piglet squid lives so deep underwater that it needs to produce its own light, which it does using organs known as photophores that are located behind its eyes.
The Helicocranchia, its scientific name, lives around 1,500 feet below the surface of the world’s oceans, so while you’ll never come across it in real life, at least you can see it via video thanks to this expedition!