view of a cockeyed squid in blue light with a glowing giant eye

Meet the Cockeyed Squid: the Deep-Sea Animal with a Giant Eye!

Get ready to meet the dazzling, one-of-a-kind Histioteuthis heteropsis, affectionately known as the “Cockeyed Squid” (because of it’s mismatched eyes) or “Strawberry Squid” ( cuz of its deep red pigmentation and photophores resembling strawberry seeds​)

The species name “heteropsis” is derived from Greek, with “hetero” meaning ‘different’ and “opsis” meaning ‘sight’ or ‘eye’. Thus, “heteropsis” describes the squid’s most striking feature: its two differently sized eyes!

These quirky cephalopods are taking the deep sea by storm with their unique, mismatched eyes – one large and upward-gazing, the other smaller and downward-looking. But this isn’t just a fashion statement; it’s a survival superpower in the ocean’s twilight zone. Dive into this eye-opening research and uncover the secrets of these squids’ unusual adaptations. Are you ready?

a cockeyed squid rotating in the water column
a cockeyed squid rotating its body in the water column 🎥: MBARI

“You can’t look at one of these and not wonder what’s going on with them,” said visual ecologist Katie Thomas. (@katiethomaskt

Full research paper available here

🕵️‍♀️🍓 Dr. Katie went into Sherlock Holmes mode when she first set eyes on this weird eyed squid!

She binged watched 30 years of underwater videos Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute collected which documented over 150 sightings of this squid (talk about committed!) & after very close inspection, she noticed something super cool…

side view of a cockeyed squid where you can see both eyes
🍓 Baby Strawberries start off with twin sized peepers. As they grow and go deep, one eye gets super-sized! The left eye goes through a mega-growth spurt, doubling up and rocking a yellow lens 📸: MBARI

This glittery deep-sea squid floats with its head down & fins up, sporting an enormous yellow eye that faces the water’s surface & a smaller eye directed toward the sea floor

Here’s why:

In the deep sea, it’s dark, almost like permanent nighttime! The big eye helps the squid catch even the tiniest bit of light that filters down from the sun or moon above.

The giant eye is on the hunt for the silhouettes of prey swimming above.

view of a cockeyed squid in blue light with a glowing giant eye
MBARI turned on some special blue lights mounted on their ROV and—BAM!—they spotted the squid’s peepers shining like neon signs! The yellow lens in their eye helps filter out oceanic glow, allowing them to spot camouflaged prey!

Some animals in the deep sea use a trick called counter-illumination, producing light from their bodies to blend in with the light from above. The squid’s big eye is adapted to see through this disguise and spot these hidden snacks! 🦑🎣

a cockeyed squid close up
Photophores are natural, glowing organs on squids that resemble sparkling rhinestones. They help squids camouflage by mimicking the light from the ocean’s surface, making them less visible to predators from below! 📸 : WHOI

🟡 Why is the big eye yellow? It turns out yellow filters out certain wavelengths of light, particularly blue light, which is most common in the deep ocean. 🌊 

This filtering can increase contrast & help the squid to better distinguish shapes and movements in the blue-dominated underwater environment.

a cockeyed squid rotating in the water
This posture is all about getting their eyeballs in the perfect position to scope out food and stay safe! 🎥 : Schmidt Ocean Institute

🏂 Fun fact: Athletes wear yellow lenses because they’ve been shown to have a brightening effect in low-light situations due to their ability to reduce light scatter. They also increase the eyes ability to focus clearly 👁️ Whelp…GUESS WHAT ATHLETES, Squids already figured this out millions of years ago 💅 

a juvenile cockeyed squid in a lab
Juvenile (young) squids don’t sport the adult’s iconic red yet; they’re more see-through with hints of red and pink. Not quite ripe yet! 😂🍓 🎥 :WHOI

Growing BIG ol’ eyes is a luxury in the squid world, & nature doesn’t like to waste! So, the cockeyed squid is super smart with its eye size. Big where it helps, small where it can save on the squid-nergy bill! Talk about eye-economical!😂  

okokok. we’ll sea ourselves out! 😉 If you can’t get enough of these beauties, you can always read more about the juicy strawberry squid here

Cockeyed Squid floating in its usual “head down and fins up” position
Photographed by MBARI.ORG

If you want to educate yourself some more about all sorts of different cephalopods, take a look at our encyclopedia. Or, what we call it, our Octopedia!

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