While deploying research equipment off the southwest coast of Tasmania, scientists were treated to a rarely seen display of aggressive squid behavior. Video footage shows the moment a squid, likely attracted to the light of the ship, enters the view of the scientists' camera.
Moments later, a second squid quickly swims into view, dragging the first squid away in a seeming display of aggression.
Roughly 70 species of squid can be found in the Southern Ocean, making the exact type difficult to identify. Hannah Rosen is a PhD candidate from Stanford University's Gilly Lab at the Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, California. Based on the brief footage, she says the squid is likely either a neon flying squid, or a commonly found squid known only as Nototodarus gouldi.
The equipment was deployed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), a science agency of the Australian government, and is an "acoustic-optical" tool that provides information on the behavior of sea creatures that live in the deep ocean—3,200 feet below sea level, though the encounter occurred only 443 feet below sea level.
In an email with National Geographic, Rudy Kloser, the leading scientist on the project, says that "when calibrating the system, it does attract some inquisitive and sometimes aggressive squids."
CSIRO had not identified the exact species of squid at the time of this article's publication.
It's already known that many types of squid exhibit aggressive interspecies behavior, even to the point of cannibalism.
Danna Staaf has a PhD from Stanford's Gilly Lab and a life-long passion for studying squid. Her dissertation focused on Humboldt squid, a species not common in the south Pacific, but one that exhibits similar characteristics to the two pictured in the video.
"I think it's quite likely that other squid species would engage in the same kind of opportunistic cannibalism as Humboldt," says Staff. A study from October of last year found that some squid species exhibit an exceptionally high amount of cannibalism. For one species, the Gonatus onyx, 42 percent of all its prey came from cannibalism.
"Although cannibalism is possible and would not be surprising, it is also possible that two species were involved," says Michael Vecchione, a researcher at the Smithsonian's NMFS National Systematics Laboratory. "In that case it would be simple predation rather than cannibalism."
Jed Winer contributed to this article.