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The video circulated through the World Oil email directory in early August - a jerky ROV recording from November 2007 of an eerie creature with giant, slowly flapping fins and bizarre jointed tentacles that dangle far below. Dubbed “Spider-Squid” by World Oil staff, the creature floats placidly along the seafloor, unfazed by at least two ROVs as well as drilling at the nearby wellhead in what the video identifies as Shell’s Perdido development in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. Speculation abounded: Had Shell discovered a new species? Was it, in fact, some sort of squid? Or spider? Or Martian? Three months later, National Geographic News answered our questions with an article identifying the Perdido visitor as a rarely seen Magnapinna squid (“Alien-like squid with ‘elbows’ filmed at drilling site,” Nov. 24, 2008). Named after its “big fin,” the squid was first identified in 1998. With its unique “elbowed” tentacles, the discovery was so unusual that biologists classed it in its own family, Magnapinnidae.

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