The sea is an incredible place. We know so little about the deepest parts of our seas, that when something surfaces, it’s nearly alien to us. This is the case with what divers recently discovered on a diving trip in the waters off the coast of Ørstafjorden, Norway.
As reported by the Daily Mail, the divers had visited a WWII shipwreck, and were on their way back in, when they came across a translucent blob floating 50 above the ocean’s floor. It was quite mysterious to them, to say the least.
At first, the curious divers couldn’t help but think the strange blob was somehow alien, with some kind of tissue swishing around inside of it. It was so strange, they couldn’t help but catch it on video.
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As it turns out, the strange alien-like object isn’t so extra-terrestrial after all. It’s actually a giant squid egg sac.
I’m sure for some of you, that revelation doesn’t make things better.
In the recorded video of the encounter, both divers Ronald Raasch and Nils Baadnes are seen curiously circling the giant egg sac which is an enormously translucent ball. As they inspect it, they shine flashlights on it, which highlights tiny objects wriggling inside. Those are thousands of baby squids inside.
The researchers’ REV ocean vessel officially released a tweet, along with the full video, which read, “#Mysterysolved! Captain Baadnes & Ronald Raasch discovered this giant gel ball while diving in Orstafjord, which is actually an eggmass of 10-armed.”
These massive egg sacs are a very rare sight. Normally, these masses fill up with water and sink down toward the bottom of the ocean floor, where they’re difficult for divers to see, let alone reach. But this latest sighting in the deep waters by Norway isn’t the first time that marine researchers have unexpectedly stumbled upon these giant squid nurseries.
Back in 2015 while diving off the Gulf of California, Danna Staaf, a squid expert, had an encounter with a 13-foot-wide red flying squid egg mass that she managed to capture on camera. In the subsequently-released study, Staaf noted that the giant egg sac most likely functioned as a protective shield for the embryos inside in order to keep them safe from both predators and parasites.
Staaf explained in a video put out by National Geographic, “We know that mama squid has these special glands in her body that make jelly and she mixes that jelly with her eggs in some way.”
She added, “And it’s concentrated. So when she produces it, it’s just a concentrated ball of snot with eggs in it, basically. We don’t know exactly what the chemicals are but they have some reaction, some ability to absorb water and expand in water. And we’ve all seen artificial chemicals like that… but this is just nature’s version of that.”
It is also believed that the elastic nature of the egg sac helps maintain enough space between each squid embryo so that each egg gets enough oxygen for the baby squid inside to properly develop.
When Staaf and her team attempted to grow young squid inside the laboratory by way of vitro fertilization, the embryos – which weren’t grown with the protective egg sac – became infected and couldn’t properly mature.
There is one question that still remains unsolved about the recent encounter witnessed by Baadnes and Raasch: which squid species was it? While the REV account attributed the eggs to a “10-armed squid,” currently there are no known squid species who possess that many tentacles.
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly which species it could’ve been that laid the egg sac. Several different species lay their eggs in similar protective sacs. And, the different species’ sacs aren’t easily distinguishable by simply looking at them.
Some of the species of squid who are known to live in the cold Norwegian waters are the Boreoatlantic armhook squid (Gonatus fabricii) and the European flying squid (Todarodes sagittatus). But it looks like we’ll never know where this one egg sac came from.
There is still a lot that the science community needs to learn about these elusive sea creatures and their breeding habits as there still so little we know about them. But hopefully one day our knowledge will catch up with the nature of the ocean.
Check out the video below:
Anastasia is an American writer and journalist living in Dublin, Ireland. Her Twitter is @AnastasiaArell5.