Rare footage of a squid mother carrying a string of glimmering pearl-like eggs has been captured by researchers from Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) in the dark ocean depths off the coast of California.

The deep-sea squid, which belongs to an unknown species in the genus Bathyteuthis, was spotted by the team around 56 miles (90 kilometers) off the coast at a depth of 4,560 feet (1,390 meters). The researchers used a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to capture high-definition footage of the squid and her still-developing offspring, which allowed them to examine the pelagic parent in detail.

The behavior of carrying eggs, known as brooding, is extremely unusual for female squids. Most squids deposit their egg cases on the seafloor or release their eggs in a gelatinous mass that drifts in open water and abandon their unhatched larva. However, nurturing mothers will carry the eggs until they hatch to improve their offspring’s chances of survival.

This is only the second time that MBARI researchers have observed this brooding behavior in Bathyteuthis squid, after first glimpsing it in 2005. The researchers suspect that other deep-dwelling squids may also turn out to be brooders. The video shows the overprotective mother carrying eggs, which are deceptively tiny compared to her mantle, the main part of her body containing all the major organs. The researchers state that this video highlights the importance of continuing to explore deeper waters to improve our understanding of life in the deep ocean.

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