Scientists Looking for Wreck Find Life 6 Miles Below Sea

Search for USS Johnston turns up deepest squid and jellyfish ever found
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 11, 2022 10:35 AM CST
Updated Jan 15, 2022 6:30 AM CST

A dive last year to the depths of the Philippine Sea not only revealed a closer look at the deepest shipwreck ever, but signs of life few suspected to be hiding up to 6 miles beneath the waves. Days before researchers came across the presumed wreckage of the USS Johnston, lost in battle in World War II, Alan Jamieson, a deep-sea researcher from the University of Western Australia, spotted a strange shape moving in the light of the submersible searching the seabed of the Philippine Trench at a depth of nearly 4 miles. It was, as Hakai Magazine reports, the deepest squid ever recorded—about a mile deeper than everyone had seen a squid before.

It wasn't just any squid. Described in Marine Biology, it was a magnapinnid, or bigfin squid, so named for the large fins protruding from the main body or mantle, as confirmed by Smithsonian zoologist Mike Vecchione. Capturing these mysterious creatures at any depth is very rare: There have been only a dozen published observations and probably another dozen unpublished sightings, Vecchione told Newsweek in November, when an adult specimen was filmed off the West Florida Escarpment in the Gulf of Mexico at a depth of about 7,700 feet. This one was spotted far deeper, at a depth of 20,380 feet, per Hakai.

Believed to be a third of the size of the largest-known magnapinnid, with a body no more than 4 inches long, it was missing the long, spaghetti-like extensions usually seen to dangle from the mantle. For that reason, Vecchione believes it may have been a juvenile, making this sighting even more special. This—and a sighting of a jellyfish some 32,800 feet below the surface—suggests a complex deep-sea ecological web unknown to us on land, per Hakai. And the more we know, the better. As no life was observed in the channel carved by the USS Johnston's sinking, researchers suggest human-caused disturbances in the seafloor, such as those that occur with mining, may drive off marine life for a very long time. (More discoveries stories.)

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