NSFW: First Ever Video of Deep-Sea Squid Having Sex

Just kidding, totally safe for work

Just kidding, totally safe for work

Mystery solved! Scientists have long wondered how, precisely, a male squid uses his quote-unquote "terminal organ" to transfer spermatophores (capsules containing millions of sperm) to the female squid. Now, thanks to a video filmed by NOAA's Little Hercules ROV (think: sea drone), they have live footage of two squid making the hanky panky, as my high school biology teacher called it, and can begin to answer this critical question.

The scene took place at a depth of 1,400 meters in the Gulf of Mexico, according to John Barrat of Smithsonian Science. When the scientists examined the video, they saw the two squid (Pholidoteuthis adami) lying parallel, pointing in opposite directions. The male was upside-down on top of the female, his terminal organ emerging out of his funnel.

"We knew the terminal organ was located in the mantle of the male but we didn't know that it projected through the funnel. The male was upside down, that also was surprising," research zoologist Michael Vecchione told Barrat.

It is still unknown how the sperm reach the eggs from the implantation site, though Vecchione guessed that they "burrow through the rest of the dorsal muscle and into the female's interior mantle to fertilize the eggs as they are coming out. But," he emphasized, "that's a guess. We really don't know."

One more thing surprised the scientists: "how long the mating process lasted." As Vecchione continued, ""In this species the spermatophores inject sperm deep into the muscle of the female's dorsal mantle. Because of this we guessed their mating was a really quick process in which the male darts in, shoots the female and then leaves. The video reveals it is a long process where the male is basically hanging on motionless for a long time. They were in that position when we first saw them in the video and they were still in that position when they swam away."

Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

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