(Photo by: Lutfu Tarriover/Vimeo)
It’s big….it’s squishy…it’s…a blob of eggs?!
In many ways, the sea remains a huge mystery. We have yet to breach all of its depths and discover all of its secrets. But what causes us to scratch our heads also draws us and calls to us just like sailors drawn to a siren song. There is always that fascination…that need to know the story behind any great mystery.
This past week, divers off of the coast of Turkey received a delightful surprise when they stumbled across a giant blob suspended in the waters. Reported to be “about the size of a car and measuring thirteen feet across”, the blob appeared to be see-through but contained countless miniscule dots floating within its circumference. None of the divers had any idea as to what it was.
As with any great mystery, there is always one detective determined to solve it. The video footage of this gelatinous mass exploded on the Internet (See video below). Scientists, researchers and marine biologists set out in the masses to be the first Blob Sleuth Master. One of them, Dr. Michael Vecchione who is an expert on squids at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, believes that the mystery blob may be an enormous mass of squid eggs!
Now if you think about it, the mother squid would not be your average Squidward-sized cephalopod if she had millions of eggs packed inside her. The five-foot long flying red squid, Ommastrephes bartramii, is likely to be the villain mastermind behind this potential egg mass, speculates Dr. Vecchione. Only one other egg mass of this magnitude has ever been discovered and reported. The large Humboldt squid (another member of the Ommastrephidae family) is a species of squid that can grow up to several feet in length. Seven years ago, divers stumbled across another large egg mass off of the coast of California. It too measured up to thirteen feet and contained over two million eggs! Imagine having to provide for a family that large!
But why are these egg masses such a mystery? Why are they so hard to find and so rare? These are just three of many questions scientific detectives have pondered over the years. Within marine biological studies, it is hypothesized that squid egg masses are usually found at great depths where squid moms and dads usually spend their time. In addition, the development time for a baby squid within an egg is pretty short before they hatch.
Just like any good detective, scientists arrive at the scene of the crime and look for clues. A few intricate studies have been performed as to how squids reproduce and the development process of their young. A massive crowd of male and female squid come together during mating season. At dawn, males begin to attract females by swimming in tight circles. As the males circle, the females will join in this crazy, tentacled dance and begin to pair off with each male. Not only do the males know how to dance, they are also dressed for this cephalopod ball. The males are able to change colors which attracts the females to them. Once a male and female have circled the ballroom, mating will then commence. Sadly, this brief romance will only occur once or twice in a squid’s short life.
Hidden under a set of glands in the female’s gills, there is a special ink sac. This sac acts as a protective shield for her eggs. During the mating ritual, the male deposits his sperm into the ink sac to fertilize the eggs. Unlike humans, squid moms can produce thousands of eggs at one time. Since the eggs are so small, they are easy food for various predators. A mother squid produces as many eggs as she can in order that at least a few of them will have a chance to grow up into adults.
After the eggs have been fertilized, the female squid plays the role of mystery mastermind and hides the eggs in various rocks and crevices deep in the ocean. It can take up to eight weeks for the eggs to hatch depending on the species. It is quite amazing that then that some species of squid can hatch within just a period of a few days.
Like the deep sea squid, the mystery of the giant blob has yet to be completely solved. Many of these mysterious creatures and phenomena pop up every so often to whet our appetites for answers and revelations. But what is the fun of it if we know all of the answers? Marine mysteries intrigue and inspire us. They produce awe and amazement. Let’s continue to play the part of Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew. Let’s pick those magnifying glasses and begin the adventure!