Rebecca Helm received an email a week ago asking about a mysterious giant pink blob that was found off the coast of Cuba. What is this bizarre-looking sea creature?
Since Helm is a Ph.D. student at Brown University and studies the evolutionary development biology of jellyfish, the email sender figured she was the person who might know.
But Helm was puzzled, as she was when she first saw a photo of the alien-like mass.
"Truthfully, this is a mystery that has haunted me for years," she told GrindTV Outdoor in an email. "I first saw a pink blob photograph a few years ago, and despite searching all over, wasn't able to identify it. When I received an email about another sighting off Cuba, I decided it was time once and for all to figure this out."
Helm put on her detective hat and started searching for answers. At first, she thought it might be a pryosome, a jet-powered colonial animal that can get very large. But she dismissed it because the pink blob was more mushy. The tiny dots in the jelly mass reminded her of frog eggs.
"Could this be an egg mass?" Helm wondered. "I started looking in this direction."
As she wrote for Deep Sea News and told us, Helm scoured “roughly” 247 aquarium forums, journal articles, blogs and “poorly translated Japanese websites” until discovering the Tree of Life website. It was an ah-ha! moment.
"There, I found my smoking gun, a perfect post on the diamondback squid, with a picture of a huge pink egg mass," she told GrindTV Outdoor.
To be scientifically exact, the creature that produced the egg mass is a Thysanoteuthis rhombus, a large species of squid that can grow to 3 feet in mantle length with a maximum weight of 66 pounds, though it averages 44 pounds.
They are found worldwide in tropical and subtropical waters, and are commercially harvested in Japan.
According to a study by ZooKeys.org, these pink masses contain 35,000 to 75,000 eggs and are arranged in two rows forming a spiral with two blunt ends. Few egg masses of have been recorded worldwide.
"I’ve heard from colleagues who go diving in the open ocean at night that being 60 feet under with blackness all around feels like floating in space, with alien life drifting by," Helm wrote. "When I see pictures like [these], I believe them."
Photos of diamondback squid egg mass are courtesy of Alejandro Escanez Perez and the ZooKeys.org.