In early July, Lutfu Tanriover went on a dive off the coast of Fethiye, his hometown in Turkey. He saw the usual sea creatures, but he also stumbled upon something scientists are still working to fully explain. About 72 feet below the surface, Tanriover and his companions discovered a giant translucent blob measuring about 13 feet wide.
Having no idea what it was, Tanriover just called it "The Thing." Thankfully, we don't just have to imagine what this odd entity moving beneath the Mediterranean looked like because the diver shot a video of the massive drifting mass and shared it online.
What was going through Tanriover's mind when he spotted it? Fear and excitement, he says.
As you can see in the video, the "thing" is so clear that when a flashlight shines on it, the light beam goes straight through. So what is it? One expert came forward to speculate.
Michael Vecchione, a scientist who works at the Smithsonian on the invertebrate zoology staff and with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told the Deep Sea News that he believes it looks a whole lot like an extra large deposit of squid eggs. If he had to guess, he would say the eggs belonged to an Ommastrephes bartramii, also known as a neon flying squid.
This flying squid doesn't get its name from just popping out of the water. According to researchers, the invertebrate can propel itself out of the water and reach speeds of up to 11.2 meters per second, sometimes going as far as 100 feet in one go. They are able to achieve such great distances by using their tentacles like wings to glide through the air.
Vecchion said he believes they are squid eggs — but he's not positive, because no one has ever seen this type of squid lay eggs before. Scientists aren't even sure that squid can create an egg cluster this large. Based on his knowledge of the species, Vecchione does think it's possible, and there is some precedent.
In 2008, researchers found a Humboldt squid egg blob that measured between 9 and 12 feet in width. Not quite as large as the most recent find, but certainly big enough. And when you read the paper that describes the egg mass, it sounds as if the researchers are describing the same thing we see in the video. They note the "eggs were embedded in a watery, gelatinous matrix." The authors believe that the clear blob that contains the eggs helps to prevent microbial infections. That blob, the researchers believe, could hold up to 2 million baby squid.
One would think that these egg clusters would be more frequently found due to their size. However, because of the depth at which they live, their short incubation period (about three days), and the sheer size of the ocean, it's likely they've just been missed by humans.
One thing is for certain. Science is lucky that Lutfu Tanriover came upon the mass with his camera at the ready. Scientists may not be able to view the specimen in person, but they can get the next best thing.
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