Stories tagged giant squid

Jun
11
2010

Dive in and explore: Discover amazing videos, pictures, and cool ocean stuff, including teacher resources and actions you can take.
Dive in and explore: Discover amazing videos, pictures, and cool ocean stuff, including teacher resources and actions you can take.Courtesy Smithsonian Ocean Portal

Today marks the 100th birthday of the late, great ocean explorer and visionary Jacques Cousteau. How many remember watching “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau” on TV—either as a kid or with their kids? For many of us in the 1960s and 70s, a Cousteau TV special was a major event that brought the whole family together. His programs were how we first came to love and appreciate the marine world and see the effects of human actions. Cousteau was truly ahead of his time, and his conservation ethic is needed more than ever as we tackle problems like climate change, overfishing, pollution, and—of course—the devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
We can draw inspiration from his example and take steps to help the ocean. Some of the most important actions you can take involve making changes in your own home, driveway, and workplace. The newly launched Smithsonian Ocean Portal is an award-winning website designed to help people connect with the ocean and “Find Their Blue.” More than 20 organizations have joined forces to build this site as a way to inspire and engage more people in ocean science and issues. Why not start today, as a birthday gift to Cousteau?
Tell us how he inspired you
and learn more about sharks and squids, coral reefs, the deep ocean, the Gulf oil spill, and much more. Dive in and explore!
Colleen Marzec, Managing Producer
Smithsonian Ocean Portal

Have a hankering for seafood? Check out this video of a public dissection of an immature giant squid. I like the part about it's teeth working like chainsaws.

Jun
30
2008

I hope you like what you see: because it seems like there's a lot of it in your future.
I hope you like what you see: because it seems like there's a lot of it in your future.Courtesy kqedquest
They’re everywhere these days! Giant squid, I mean.

The carcass of a 25-foot giant squid floating off the coast of California was picked up by a research vessel last week.

The body was only just brought to a marine research station, so for the time being all that has been said about it is that it’s big, weighs hundreds of pounds, and has tentacles “as big around as a person’s leg.” Cool, as usual.

How is it that we’re so flush with giant squid corpses these days? What’s the deal here? More squid moving around and dying? More squid? Or more boats and people, and better communication? Or do I just pay too much attention to giant squid (as if that were possible).

More posts on giant squid and their ilk.

May
27
2008

Oh, Internet: You always know just what I want.
Oh, Internet: You always know just what I want.Courtesy Mike Monteiro
You know, I can’t be certain that the giant squid are planning on eating us. It may be (stress may) that they simply intend to capture our species to use us as servants. Unfortunately, I’m not a particularly strong swimmer, nor do I think I could hold my breath long enough to do much work for a squid, so I’m kind of hoping that they just plan to eat us.

Regardless of the specifics, the evidence is indicating pretty clearly (to me) that the mega-cephalopods are making their move—giant squid and colossal squid (“giant” and “colossal,” of course, being species, not simply adjectives) are turning up left and right, their huge eyes taking in our every move. Huge dead eyes, sure, but they’re still everywhere.

As it happens, yet another giant squid has turned up in the waters off Australia. Depending on which story one reads, the giant squid was caught while still alive or after it had died (for sure one of those two options, though—I haven’t read any other descriptions). Either way, it seems that the goodship Zeehan, a trawler out of Victoria, Australia, was dragging a net at a depth of about 500 meters late Sunday night. When the crew winched up the net, they noticed “a big ball” about halfway down that was obviously not a fish. No it was a 19-foot-long, 500-pound squid, probably sending a telepathic message to its kin at that very moment, asking them to avenge its humiliation and death.

As usual, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Five hundred pounds? My aunt weighs five hundred pounds. And that colossal squid they thawed out to study a few weeks ago weighed twice that much. Why should I care about this dead squidsie?”

And that, my friends, is where y’all are all messed up.

Do you say. “Well, that sunrise is sort of pretty, but it’s no sunset.” Or, “The Statue of Liberty is big, but Godzilla could still crush it.” No! No you don’t. That would be missing the point of those things entirely. So, yes, the colossal squid specimen technically is bigger than this giant squid, but is it better? Well, yes, but that’s not the point either. It’s a giant squid, i.e. it’s awesome.

If you must ask questions, instead of simply being and enjoying, ask questions like these: Why are we finding more huge squid these days? Is their ecosystem changing in some way that they’re moving into areas where they’re more likely to be caught? Are people fishing more in new areas, or at new depths, and that’s why? Or are we not really catching more squid—we’re just able to find out more quickly and get indisputable proof (nice digital photographs) with all the awesome technology living in the future now allows.

Or, we might ask if there’s anything special about the individual squid that are caught. Are they of a certain age group, or sex? They’re always alone—is that important?

Now we’re pretending like we’re scientists! So get into that sort of thing. Or just chill out and enjoy the squid.

Oh, hey--this gets the prize for the grossest thing I’ve seen yet today. But not in the last week (a grown man eating his boogers still keeps that title).

Apr
30
2008

The AMNH's famous squid and whale.: Pretty cool, but not as good as The House on the Rock's under appreciated masterpiece.
The AMNH's famous squid and whale.: Pretty cool, but not as good as The House on the Rock's under appreciated masterpiece.Courtesy Fritz Geller-Grimm
And if you were bad? What do you become then? A hagfish. And if you were really bad? You become a tufted titmouse, nature’s pervert. Do you know what a titmouse thinks about all day? It thinks about ways to incorporate animal abuse* into really dirty jokes.

Ah, but if you were good, if you were really good, then when you die you become a colossal squid, nature’s video arcade, nature’s He-man, nature’s candy. Normally I detest mollusks—how can you trust something so different? I wouldn’t make friends with an annelid, why should I treat mollusks any differently?—but the colossal squid, and its gracile cousin, the giant squid… they’re something special. Huge, big-brained, terrifying sperm whale food, just hiding out in the deep. When angels see giant squid, they get jealous—check it out, it’s in the bible.

But what made me think of the colossal squid just now? Good question, but unnecessary—I think about the colossal squid all of the time. It just so happens, however, that the big squid is in the news.

You may recall that in February of last year the first ever intact colossal squid was captured by a fishing boat, and then flash frozen for future study. If you don’t recall, let technology do it for you. Well, the time has come for the frosty squid to get its once- and twice-overs.

Initial examination determined that the squid was an adult, and, at about a thousand pounds, the largest cephalopod ever documented. Shorter but much heavier than the giant squid, the specimen was only 4.2 meters (about 15 feet) long, although it’s believed that the creature’s two longest tentacles probably “shortened and shrank” after it died (the squid was eating a toothfish when the fishermen snagged it, and was still slightly alive when they finally got it on board). Before the tentacles shrank, the squid could have been several meters longer.

Marine biologists have determined from the recent study of the body, however, that the beast was far from being fully grown; judging by the development of its beak (squids have beaks! Check this out!) the scientists figured that the squid could have grown five or six hundred pounds beyond its already impressive weight.

The scientists also observed that the squid’s eyes, when alive, probably measured about a foot across. The eyes of colossal squid are the largest of any known living creature (I think some extinct ichthyosaurs came close, though). Often living a mile or more beneath the surface of the ocean, squid need huge eyes to see in the low light.

To help grip their prey, the suckers on giant squid’s tentacles are lined with tiny teeth. The colossal squid has something similar, and slightly more awesome: the biologists found hundreds of sharp, swiveling hooks on the suckers at the ends of the colossal squid’s tentacles. Sperm whales, which feed on giant and colossal squid, are often covered with slashes and circular scars from the tentacles of struggling squid.

Interestingly enough, the team of biologists admitted to eating part of another colossal squid that was under examination. This I understand—who wouldn’t want to take some of the strength of a colossal squid for their own. The meal was described as being “very much like sashimi” and “nice.” One scientist also said that “it left a real taste in your mouth and stayed there for quite a while,” which doesn’t necessarily sound “nice.”

I’m always looking for reasons to talk about colossal and giant squid, so if you’re into that keep your eyes peeled at Science Buzz. Until then, though, be good. Otherwise you might end up as a sneaky hagfish, filthy little titmouse.

*Thanks to Thor for the link.

Jul
29
2005

Australian scientists believe that the elusive giant squid,
Architeuthis dux, may indulge in cannibalism. The diet of these mythical creatures, enshrined in myth as ferocious beasts that overturned boats and devoured sailors, has previously been difficult to study. No giant squid has ever been examined alive, and the digestive systems of most studied specimens have been emptied. But researchers from the University of Tasmania, Australia, have now analyzed the gut contents of a male giant squid caught by fisherman off the west coast of Tasmania in 1999. They've found three tentacle fragments and 12 squid beaks, along with other macerated prey. "This strongly suggests cannibalism," says team member Simon Jarman of the Australian Antarctic Division in Kingston, Tasmania. The only other prey species identified was a fish, the blue grenadier.

The question remains: is this intended or accidental cannibalism? New Zealand scientist Steve O'Shea believes it's the latter. "The male giant squid has to use a puny 15-gram brain to coordinate 150 kilograms of weight, 10 metres of length and a 1.5-metre-long penis," he says. "He physically plunges this penis into the female's arms, which are rather unfortunately right next to her beak. Because he is coordinating so much with so little, I think occasionally bits get chewed off when they inadvertently get too close to the beak." Despite this theory, other members of the squid family, like the jumbo squid, Moroteuthis ingens, have been known to eat members of their own species.