©Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

No, you're not looking at a toon charachter.. this little creature that is smiling (well at least that seems smiling) to you is a Banded Piglet Squid (Helicocranchia pfefferi), a small squid that lives at depths of more than 100m (300ft).
This "happy" specimen, photographed by the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium's director Mike Schaat, has developed what appears to be a smiley face, caused by a particular alignment of skin pigments...

Obviously Piglet Squid's name derives from its appearance but I think that in this picture, more than a piglet lookalike, it's a clone of Gonzo the great, the famous Muppets charachter!

Look at the picture on the left and compare it with our Squid... the tentacles with the hair, the funnel (syphon) with Gonzo's nose.. they are really similar! Well ok, the squid is much fatter but this is due to Helicocranchia's habit of filling up with water.

Piglet squids stil are quite enigmatic creatures. Very little known of its biology. It has been observed from submersibles in their typical head down orientation, but no one is sure why. It is a sluggish swimmer with ammonium ions in its body fluid that help keep it bouyant. A large light producing organ (photophore) is located beneath each of its large eyes.

It is its habit of swimming upside down (compared to the way we are used to see other squids) , which makes its tentacles look like a crazy mop of hair. In the following pictures, taken by a submersible robot of a deep-sea barge (on the background) off the Gulf of Guinea, West Africa, it becomes much clearer its resemblance to a piglet.. the syphon really looks like a pig's snout.

©serpent project 2006

©serpent project 2006

Finally I just want to add that the Piglet Squid is not the only Toon-like crature of the abyss.. look at the Dumbo Octopus:

dumbo octopus

Dumbo Octopus and other amazing creatures from the deep ocean are the protagonist of the following post: Creatures from the abyss