Hello Science nerds of the Blue Planet!
Do you remember last Summer’s surprises that Terra Azul crew retrieved from the depths South of Vila Franca do Campo? If you do not, HERE and HERE are a couple of our posts that should refresh your memory. Yes, we are talking about Cephalopods – aka squids and octopuses – and, in particular, those big fellas lurking in the Ocean depths that often end up in the bellies of our deep diving whales!
Well, it happens that Stephanie Suciu is starting a research project in collaboration with University of Azores to look into the genetic of these fascinating creatures and understand more about the diet of the whales of Azores. She asked Terra Azul for help to collect the specimens and data relevant to the whale species feeding on them and we could not be more happy to take action. Funny as, the project is called MONICEPH, mixing the name of Azores long term cetacean monitoring project MONICET and Cephalopods. Nerd enough, isn’t it?!? 😀
The collaboration could have not started better as we found the remains of a specimen of Seven-arm Octopus (Halipron atlanticus) the day after she equipped us with data collection kits! The sample was found in an area where Sperm Whales (Physeter macrocephalus) were feeding and, as it happened for the five specimens found last year, the head was totally missing…but the beak was still there!
These giant octopuses (females can reach four meters in length) are not the only dish on the menu for deep diving cetaceans such as Beaked Whales and Sperm Whales. Check out what some fishermen hauled up in the waters of Vila Franca do Campo last year: A juvenile Giant Squid, most likely belonging to the Architeuthidae family which can grow to around 12 metres long!
Cephalopod species classification is an ongoing business for scientists, especially for those species inhabiting the depths of our Oceans. We hope that with our help MONICEPH project will shade some more light on the diversity and ecology of these amazing creatures! 🙂