Stories tagged colossal squid


It begs the question: Does he feel lucky?
It begs the question: Does he feel lucky?Courtesy Sitron
Of course by “sue for libel,” I mean that the squid intends to lure the scientists into the ocean, and then do something just awful to them with all its colossal tentacles. Something just awful.

But why? Why would the colossal squid take a break from its watercolors, topiary, and Little Mermaid-style undersea musical numbers to mutilate hard-working researchers? Because they did the one thing that the colossal squid cannot abide: they sassed.

The colossal squid can handle getting eaten by sperm whales. It can handle getting mixed up with its effete cousin, the giant squid. But it will not tolerate sass.

What do I mean by sass? This headline, based on the scientists’ research: “Colossal Squid Is No Monster, Study Finds.”

What? If a 40+ foot, 1000+ pound, tentacle-covered (or arm-covered, if you’re going to be a jerk about it), deep sea creature with eyes the size of dinner plates doesn’t qualify as a monster, I don’t know what does. The colossal squid works hard at this stuff, and it doesn’t need scientists yapping at its mighty heels (or its muscular hydrostats).

These scientists are saying, in effect, that if one were to “release the kraken,” if that released kraken were a colossal squid, the kraken wouldn’t really do much except float around, and maybe grab at a sleepy-looking fish every few days. They’re saying that the kraken—I mean the colossal squid—is just a big, lazy, slow-moving ocean blob.

Why would you even say that? It’s so mean!

The scientists are basing these claims on research that compares the metabolism of different squids in the colossal squid’s family to their respective body sizes. A squid the size of the colossal squid, they say, would have an exceptionally slow metabolism. That means that the colossal squid would probably move slowly, and require food infrequently. It would also have a relatively low nutritional value, suggesting that it might not be as important a part of the sperm whale diet as other scientists have guessed.

When the colossal squid would hunt, they say it would likely ambush its prey, instead of actively pursuing it. And, you know, I guess, for a hunting strategy like that, it would make sense to have hook-covered arms and tentacles (which the colossal squid has).

Even so, these are fighting words. I mean, the giant squid seems to be a fairly active hunter… but then again the two species belong to entirely different families.

Also, using similar species as direct analogies isn’t necessarily going to be the best way to learn about a creature. There can be quite a bit of variation within a taxonomic family, even, I’d imagine, with a characteristic like metabolism. Look at bears: you’ve got your extinct short-faced bear, which is thought to have been a relatively speedy hunter, and you’ve got your giant panda, which sits around eating bamboo all day.

Obviously I’m stretching here, but I’m just trying to save those poor researchers from violent squid retaliation. (Assuming it has the energy for that. And that is what I’m assuming.)


A colossal squid's ghost: Caught on film for the first time!
A colossal squid's ghost: Caught on film for the first time!Courtesy DYFL
This is nothing new, but Popular Science has a nice little photo series on some of the cool features of the colossal squid.

So check it out here, and keep the giant mollusks foremost in your mind.


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.