While exploring the inky depths of the Gulf of Alaska last month, a team of researchers happened upon a translucent squid with massive eyes, shimmering organs and a pretty nifty hairdo.


The bird-like creature is a cockatoo squid from the family Cranchiidae and that stylish slick of "hair" is actually made up of the animal's arms and tentacles folded back over its head creating a wavy crest that gives rise to its common name. Much like octopuses and other cephalopods, the cockatoo squid is decked out with tiny, pigment-carrying cells called chromatophores that allow the animal to change colour and reflect traces of light.

A squid that's glowing bright red may seem like an easy target for predators, but without the lights of the remote operated vehicle (ROV) to illuminate the scene, this squid would be nearly invisible. Many deep-sea dwellers glow red as its a colour that does not penetrate the ocean depths, allowing them to blend in:

The balloon-like squid was spotted by a team from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who were operating an ROV, called the Global Explorer, at a depth of 527 metres (1,729 feet). The finding is just one of a host of diverse species that have been filmed during the Seamounts 2019 expedition - a project with the aim of collecting samples and observing deep-sea creatures in their natural habitats. 

For ROV superintendent Travis Kolbe, the cockatoo squid was a highlight of the expedition: "all of a sudden it turned its head to the ROV like it was acknowledging we were there and briefly stared at us before turning away," he wrote in a blog post. "We all laughed because it was just THAT AMAZING to see one of these animals behave that way. Just simply incredible is the only way to describe it."