“Even just a hundred miles off the coast, we’re seeing things that they put on the corner of the maps — you know, ‘Here lie monsters,’” he said. “You could be out here, and beneath you are giant squid, the things of our wildest imagination! They’re part of our land, they’re part of our country.”
Deep-sea researchers frequently point out that science knows less about the still largely unexplored deep waters beyond human vision than it does about the surface of Mars.
The giant squid has long been an exemplar of this reality: a gargantuan creature, yet known to humans only because dead specimens washed ashore or huge squid beaks were found in the stomachs of sperm whales, the animals’ primary predator.
Even as fishery depletion has forced ships to trawl in deeper waters, meaning that more giant squid specimens are hauled up in nets, this offers only narrow glimpses into their world. A body on its own, Dr. Vecchione said, “doesn’t tell us anything about how they make a living in their natural environment.”
The new video, recorded at a depth of 759 meters, in a spot where the ocean bottom lies at 2,200 meters, offers rare and useful clues to the animal’s habitat and hunting methods.
Dr. Widder designed the optical lure to emulate the light that a jellyfish emits when it is being attacked. According to the “burglar alarm theory,” the animal’s light is meant to attract some larger predator, which will attack whatever is attacking the jellyfish. That a second giant squid was attracted to the lure seems to bolster the theory.
Still, scientists have little idea how the species as a whole is faring, especially as the oceans it calls home are rapidly warming and acidifying. “It could fall out of existence without us even knowing,” Dr. Robinson said.