A San Antonio researcher is among the few humans to have come face to face with a previously mythical but unproven species...the giant squid of the Gulf of Mexico, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Dr. Dante Finolio heads the Center for Conservation and Research at the San Antonio Zoo, and he was on board the Nartional oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's 'Journey into Midnight' exploration vessel which, for the first time, photographed the mythical squid more than a half mile under the surface of the Gulf, 10 miles off the coast of Louisiana.
"This documents conclusively that these creatures do live in the Gulf of Mexico," he said. "There have been some bodies that have washed up on shore, but you never know where the bodies came from, because the Gulf current could have washed the bodies from thousands of miles away."
Like Scotland's mythical Loch Ness Monster, there have been claims of sighting of giant squids in the Gulf dating back the 16th Century Spanish explorers, but this is the first time that one has formally been seen and photographed. And he says it is a sight out of your nightmares, starting with its ten foot long body.
"They have eight arms and two tentacles, feeding tentacles which are much longer, tipped at the end with two tentacular clubs, and those are like two huge baseball mitts that are laced with two suctorial discs which enable them to grab pretty much anything they want.
The giant squid of the Architeuthis dux species, was only spotted once before by humans, off the coast of Japan seven years ago.
The creature has the largest eyes in the animal kingdom, due to the pitch blackness of 3,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf. He says that's how the mission leader, Dr. Edith Witter, managed to lure them, by inventing a device called e-jelly, that mimicks how quids communicate in the darkness of the deep, through flashes of light.
"That e-jelly basically flashes out light in a manner that the giant squids respond to."
Dr. Finolio says the most significant part of the discovery is that it was made within sight of one of the largest oil rigs in the Gulf, and not far from the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill which damaged the Gulf Coast back in 2010. He says the discovery of the giant squid is a living example of the vast diversity of nature in the Gulf.
"There are a lot of U.S. communities that rely on tourism and seafood and other things that would be significantly impacted by more oil spills," he said.
He challenged San Antonians to, for example, 'google' the medicines in their medicine cabinet, the ones they rely on to keep them healthy.
"And see if you can come up with list that isn't at least 75% directly derived from nature," he said. "If we lose biodiversity, we lose our own future."
Photo and video courtesy SAN ANTONIO ZOO. Credit: Dr. E. Widder and Dr. N. Robinson.
#1 Dr. Dante Finolio and team leader Dr. Edith Witter on board the research ship
#2Recovery of the research vessel in the Gulf of Mexico