URI Bay Campus Lecture Explores Mysterious Deep-Sea Squid

Lisa Cugini, (401) 874-6642 lcugini@gso.uri.edu

Narragansett, R.I. — December 4, 2003 — Legendary stories about giant squids, sea monsters, and mermaids have fascinated seafarers and landlubbers for centuries. Legend becomes reality as new technology is allowing researchers to explore the depths of the Earth’s oceans and discover large and unusual squids and other bizarre marine animals that inhabit the deep.

The public is invited to attend the fourteenth annual Charles and Marie Fish Lecture in Oceanography hosted by the URI Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO). This years lecture features squid expert Dr. Michael Vecchione, director of the National Systematics Laboratory, a NOAA-Fisheries operation, located at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. His talk will focus on “Weird Deep Sea Squids and the Nature of Natural History.” The free lecture will be held on Tuesday, December 16, at noon in Corless Auditorium at the URI Narragansett Bay Campus.

Vecchione, a cephalapod biologist, has been studying marine creatures that inhabit the deep sea and during the course of his research, has discovered an unusual species of squid that has been sighted in most of the world’s oceans. Dubbed the “Mystery Squid,” this creature has been seen in waters west of Africa and off of northern Brazil, in the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and in Hawaii, at depths ranging from 6,300 to 15,390 feet.

“These squids are not just a new species,” said Vecchione in a NOAA press release, “they are very different from any squid ever seen before. None of the squids had been collected, but they have the same characteristics—extremely long, slender arms and tentacles that have ‘elbows, and very large fins extending beyond the end of the body. One of the squids was estimated to be about 21 feet long and another was 13 to 16 feet long.”

The annual Charles and Marie Fish Lecture in Oceanography is supported by income from the Charlie and Bobbie Fish Endowment for Oceanography, established in 1989 by Marilyn Fish Munro in memory of her parents.

An oceanographer who specialized in marine zooplankton, Charles J. Fish started URI’s first marine biological program as part of the Department of Zoology. His wife, Marie Poland Fish, well known for her pioneering work on the fish of Lake Erie, later became a world expert in marine acoustics. It was through their joint efforts that a graduate program in oceanography was established at the Narragansett Marine Laboratory, which later became URIs Graduate School of Oceanography.

Past presenters of the prestigious Fish Lecture include Sir Crispin Tickell, British permanent representative to the United Nations and the Security Council; Charles Alexander, senior editor at Time magazine; Dr. Sylvia Earle, advisor to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); Dr. Bruce Robison, senior scientist at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute; educator and naturalist Richard Wheeler; Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, NOAA Chief Scientist and former astronaut; Dr. Orrin Pilkey, Professor of Geology at Duke University; Dr. John Morrissey, president of the American Elasmobranch (shark and rays) Society; Dr. Carl Safina, founding director of the Audubon Society’s Living Oceans Program for marine conservation; Sandy Tolan, freelance journalist and independent radio producer; Dr. Cindy Lee Van Dover, a faculty member in the Biology Department at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia; and Dr. Robert Ballard, deep sea explorer and discoverer of the Titanic.

The lecture is free and open to the public. Seating is limited and available on a first come-first serve basis. Call the URI Office of Marine Programs at (401) 874-6211 for more information or directions.