Environmental

3 strange animals that washed ashore in 2020

Here are several strange animals that washed ashore in 2020:

1. Giant squid with foot-wide eyes

The dead giant squid (Architeuthis dux) found on Golden Mile Beach in Britannia Bay, South Africa. (Image credit: Adéle Grosse)

It’s rare to see a giant squid (Architeuthis dux), so people took notice when one washed ashore in Cape Town, South Africa on June 7. These squid are very eccentric-looking — their eight arms and two tentacles are covered with serrated suckers with powerful suction; they have the largest eyes in the animal kingdom (measuring 1 foot, or 30 centimeters, in diameter); and they can reach lengths up to 60 feet (18 meters).

This particular giant squid is now in the collections of the Iziko Museums of South Africa, and its DNA may help researchers determine if there is just one or many species of giant squid living deep beneath the waves.

2. 7-armed octopus

When a man spotted a “red glob” on the rocky beach of an island near Seattle, he snapped some photos that set off a friendly debate about the creature’s identity. The blob was clearly a cephalopod (a group that includes squid, octopus, cuttlefish and nautilus), but what species was it?

The scientific consensus arrived at the seven-armed octopus (Haliphron atlanticus), a deepwater creature that usually doesn’t swim in Washington’s cold coastal waters.

Despite its curious name, the octopus has more than seven arms. In males, the eighth arm is used during mating, and the rest of the time it stays modestly tucked away in a sac near its right eye. 

3. Shark sliced by swordfish

Scientists were thrown for a loop when a dead thresher shark washed ashore on the coast of Libya with a swordfish’s “sword” embedded in its body. Swordfish are known to be aggressive toward animals they perceive as threats (including some whales, sea turtles and humans), but they’ve never been documented attacking thresher sharks before. 

Thresher sharks eat small fish and wouldn’t be a threat to swordfish, the researchers said.

Perhaps, the two were fighting over prey, the scientists said, although it’s also possible the stabbing was an accident.

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