In case you haven't heard, the ocean is filled with a whole bunch of weird things, and also very large things. We've got Japanese spider crabs (Macrocheira kaempferi) with legs that stretch over 3.7 metres long. Giant clams (Tridacna gigas) with shells that grow to 1.3 metres long. Even humble jellies can break records, with the Lion's mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) rumoured to have tentacles that are over 36 metres long. But what divers discovered off the coast of Turkey recently is that not only does ocean life come in massive proportions, the egg clusters they spawn from can be super-sized too.
Filmed on July 9, this car-sized blob has been identified as a giant ball of squid eggs, measuring about 4 metres wide. Found 22 metres below the surface, the almost imperceptible mass was "very soft" to the touch, diver and videographer Lutfu Tanriover told R.R. Helm at Deep Sea News. Its identity remained a mystery to Tanriover and the other divers until the footage was posted online and got the attention of marine biologist Michael Vecchione from the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in the US.
"Vecchione is an expert on squid, and to him this giant sphere looks like a huge squid egg mass, and it's the largest he's ever seen," Deep Sea News reports. "In fact, egg masses like this may be floating off many major coasts, not just Turkey's."
As far as the species of squid that left this humungous bundle of joy behind, Vecchione guesses it's the red flying squid (Ommastrephes bartramii). Capable of growing to around 1.5 meters in length, it's thought that the red flying squid can glide through the air by taking water into their mantles, pushing it back out with such force that it propels them into the air, and then spreading out their fins and tentacles to form 'wings'. It's not clear why they do this, and the mechanism has only been confirmed in a different species - the neon flying squid (Todarodes pacificus) since 2013.
While no one's ever seen a red flying squid lay an egg mass, R.R. Helm discusses something similar at Deep Sea News:
"In 2008, Danna Staaf and her colleagues documented, for the first time, a humboldt squid egg mass, which they found in the Gulf of California. It is the only egg mass known to rival the one divers found in Turkey. The egg mass Staaf described was between 3 and 4 metres long, making it the largest ever recorded in the scientific literature. And the number of eggs inside? Oh, between 600,000 and 2 million - 10 times more than any other squid ever recorded."
The question is, if multiple species of squid are laying these egg masses on a regular basis, why are they so very rarely seen? Head to Deep Sea News to hear their analysis of this mystery, but the short version is that these things often only exist for a couple of days, and they're often only lurking in waters too deep for diving. So it looks like Tanriover got lucky with this one, which is great news for us.
Here's another massive squid egg mass, discovered earlier this year: