One eye up, one eye down! Meet the strawberry squid

Also called the cockeyed squid, this is one sweet deep sea creature
One squid. Two very different eyes. (© 2022 MBARI)

As we've discovered already on this site, the deep sea is home to all sorts of curious creatures. Some are frightening, some are fragile. But few are as enticing as the strawberry squid.

Thanks to new footage from the awesome Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), we're getting to see this incredible creature up close. And it's quite the feast.

Not only does this rarely seen animal have skin that looks like the surface of that beloved berry, it has two very different eyes. One is small and black, while the other is large, bulbous, and a glimmering yellow-green!

This speaks to something that all deep sea animals share in one way or another—adaptations that help them survive in one of the most forbidding habitats on Earth.

How do these different eyes allow the strawberry squid to enjoy the sweet life? Read on!

Leaning just so

The strawberry squid is quite small, measuring about 13 cm (5 inches). (© 2013 MBARI)

The strawberry squid lives in a part of the deep ocean known as the twilight zone—in case, it was spotted 725 metres (2,378 feet) deep in an area known as the Monterey Canyon.

Though this area is very dark, it is not completely dark, as the very deep sea is. In a way, you could best describe it as (a little) light on top, dark on the bottom. And the strawberry squid's eyes are adapted perfectly to this unique environment.

It spends its life leaning in such a way that its smaller eye is pointing downwards, while the larger eye is pointing up! This position is where the animal's other name—the cockeyed squid—comes from.  (Something that is cockeyed is something that is off-balance or skewed.)

Eyes for all seasons

As seen under blue light, the strawberry squid's red body almost disappears in its habitat (its eye doesn't glow under normal light). (© 2014 MBARI)

And how do these different eyes help?

The larger, curved eye is designed to capture the maximum amount of light possible. Though the twilight zone receives some light, it is only about 1% of the total light that enters at the surface of the ocean. So still very dark! This helps to alert the squid to threats coming from above.

Meanwhile, the smaller eye looks downward and scans below for sources of bioluminescence. These are naturally glowing animals that populate the dark ocean. And many of them are food for the strawberry squid.

With one eye each designed for either side of its ocean home, this squid is well prepared. Even more interestingly, none of these squids are born this way. Their eyes both begin small and black, with one of them changing as the squid enters adulthood.

But there's more!

The strawberry squid also has adaptations to help it blend into its surroundings. Though red is a bright colour on the surface, no 'red light' makes it down to the twilight zone. This means that the squid actually appears black against the ocean depth.

And it has one more intriguing feature. Those tiny flecks across its skin that look like strawberry seeds? They are light producing organs called photophores. These glow very faintly and break up the animal's outline as it would be seen by a predator swimming below. This can mask the squid so that it blends into the soft light coming from above.

Different eyes. Red skin that looks black. Little glowing seeds. Is the strawberry squid our new favourite animal?

Better watch this video now from MBARI to check and make sure!

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  1. I think this animal is very interesting and cool just looking at it is awsome and it can change its eye color Wich is amazing

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