The giant sea creature that stunned researchers who sailed to the Red Sea in late 2020 with the OceanXplorer research vessel has finally been classified.
Examining the wreckage of the cruise ship Pella, which sank in November 2011 at a depth of about 850 meters this year, the OceanX crew was able to gather more data on the squid-like animal swimming past the remote-controlled dash camera; when researchers first saw the animal, they thought it might be a giant squid, but when zoologist and squid expert Mike Vecchione reviewed the latest images, he classified the animal as an extremely large specimen of purple-backed flying squid.
OceanX’s science programme leader, Mattie Rodrigue, noted that it was the first time he had seen this human-sized sea creature swimming past the nose of the wreck: “I was shocked and stunned.” Rodrigue added that during their next dive they saw the same squid or another very similar one.
Focusing on researching the ocean and protecting species, the purpose of OceanX’s expeditions in the Red Sea is to understand how the species here survive in harsh conditions. The Red Sea has the highest salinity at 65 percent. The giant animal in question was a surprising and unexpected sight for researchers seeking answers to this question.
The purple-backed flying squid, scientifically named “Sthenoteuthis oualaniensis”, usually lives at a depth of 600 meters from the surface and can be found in a wide variety of environments. Most commonly found in the Arabian Sea, these large squid are often preyed upon by sharks.