Some Deep-Sea Squid Moms Hold Their Eggs in Their Arms


Making babies is a complicated yet essential endeavor for every animal species on Earth. And many animals—especially those in extreme environments like deserts, glaciers, or the deep sea—have gotten pretty creative about the way they pass on their genes. The female squid shown in the video above from the Monterey Bay Area Research Institute (MBARI) laid a bubble wrap-like sheet of eggs and is carrying it with her.

Spotting this behavior was a big deal for MBARI biologists. Reproduction in cephalopods (a family that includes octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish) varies quite a bit from species to species. Many octopus mothers lay their eggs in a den or cave and stay there to guard them, blowing fresh water over the young to keep them clean and safe. During this time, the female octopus will not eat, and protecting her offspring like this may be last thing she does.

Squid are much less careful with their babies—or so scientists believed. Shallow-water species typically glue their eggs to something sturdy on the sea floor, then take off. Farther out to sea, with no obvious receptacle for offspring, open-water squid parents just squirt their young directly into the water column, hoping that the sheer quantity of babies ensures that a few make it past the jaws of predators.

Very little is known about the reproduction of deep-sea squid, mostly because very little is known about the deep sea, period. Until the last few decades, it’s been impossible for people to get down there to check it out. Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) have made exploration possible, and much of what we’ve found has been pretty amazing.

Just look at the Bathyteuthis berryi in the above video. After mating, this wallet-sized squid lays a sheet of babies, with each squid kid safe in its own little capsule. She is literally putting all of her eggs in one blanket and carrying it with her.

B. berryi is only the second known deep-sea species to behave this way, but we still have a lot more to learn.

Header image from YouTube // MBARI