Colossal squid investigation at New Zealand museum

This is a colossal squid video.

From AFP news agency:

Colossal squid specimen is relative minnow

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

WELLINGTON: The biggest squid ever caught – which is 10 metres long and boasts a fearsome beak and razor-sharp hooks – may be small compared to others still lurking in the depths, experts in New Zealand said today.

The colossal squid has begun a two-day thaw at The Museum of New Zealand in Wellington before it is examined in more detail on Wednesday by an international team of scientists.

It weighs 495 kg, has eyes the size of dinner plates and is estimated at up to 10 metres long.

Eyes the size of dinner plates

But that may be relatively small, scientists said after initial examination, suggesting other colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) under the chilly Antarctic waters might grow much larger.

On a museum blog following the progress of the thaw, Chris Paulin – who is projects manager at the museum, which is also known as Te Papa Tongarewa – said Tuesday that the beak of the colossal squid has been exposed as the flesh defrosts.

The size of the lower beak, used to chop prey into bite sized pieces, is around 43 to 45 mm long. However, colossal squid lower beaks previously found in the stomachs of sperm whales have been as long as 49 mm.

Extrapolating the relationship between the length of the beak and body size from another smaller specimen being examined suggests the species could grow much bigger, Paulin said.

“Can we assume that this species reaches three quarters of a tonne in weight?” he asked.

“Gelatinous blob with seriously evil arms”

One of the scientists leading the examination, Auckland University of Technology squid expert Steve O’Shea, said it was difficult to say how much bigger the monster squid could grow.

“What we know from that one measurement is that the beak of this animal from the stomachs of sperm whales are considerably larger,” O’Shea told Radio New Zealand. “We make the leap to say that the colossal squid grows considerably larger than the 495 kg one we are currently defrosting.”

O’Shea has previously described the colossal squid, which has razor-sharp swivelling hooks at the end of its tentacles, as “a nasty aggressive sort of squid… a gelatinous blob with seriously evil arms on it.”

If the new specimen was cut into squid rings, they would be size of tractor tyres, and would taste of ammonia.

The specimen was caught as it ate an Antarctic toothfish hooked on a fishing boat’s long line in Antarctic waters in February last year (See, Colossal squid dwarfs giants, Cosmos Online). After being snap frozen, it was given to the museum, which has since been deliberating over the best way to defrost, examine and display it.

Tanked up

Suggestions such as using a giant microwave to defrost it were discarded, and on Monday the squid was placed in a tank filled with cold salty water to ensure it defrosts slowly without decomposing. The squid is so large that there was a risk the outside flesh would start to rot before the inside had thawed.

Defrosting is due to finish Wednesday when scientists will learn as much as they can before the squid is preserved in formalin to go on show in a massive tank at the museum later this year.

Watch the thawing progress live via webcams on the museum’s website.

See video here.

Colossal Squid Dissection Reveals Toothfish Diet: here.

Update August 2008: here. And here.

Protect The Colossal Squid: here.

Scientists See Squid Attack Squid: here.

Discovery Animals: Giant Squid: How Do You Film One? Here.

Giant Squid Eye (in a jar!): here.

Colossal and giant squid both have eyes that can measure 27cm (11in) across – much bigger than any fish. Scientists found that huge eyes offer no advantages in the murky ocean depths other than making it easier to spot enormous shapes – such as sperm whales: here.

Nautiloids: here.

2 thoughts on “Colossal squid investigation at New Zealand museum

  1. World’s first colossal squid display open soon

    NZPA | Saturday, 29 November 2008

    The Museum of New Zealand will open the world’s only colossal squid exhibit on December 13.

    The 495 kg, 4.2m female colossal squid will be on show at Te Papa in time for the summer school holidays, and will stay on free display for three years.

    It will be lit in a custom-built tank, with displays of various body parts including the lens of its eye, and models of its beak and tentacle swivel hooks that can be touched and rotated.

    “This exceptional specimen. . . contributes to our understanding and appreciation of our oceans depths and the amazing creatures that inhabit it,” said Te Papa chief executive Seddon Bennington.

    The tank with the squid inside weighs 3 tonnes and will be transported from the museum’s Tory St workshops on Monday.

    It is the most massive invertebrate ever discovered, and holds the record for the world’s largest eye, measuring 27cm in diameter.

    The squid was heavily hyped as a monster and “T-Rex of the Seas” after it was landed by the fishing vessel San Aspiring – gnawing on a hooked toothfish – in the Ross Sea in 2007.

    Donated to the museum by then Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton, the squid turned out to be more a damp squib in terms of the 10m length initially estimated by the trawler skipper.

    But when it was defrosted in April, the female squid proved fascinating in many other matters than size.

    Marine biologist Dr Steve O’Shea, the main squid expert at Auckland’s University of Technology, put together a theory that the female’s body may be dark-coloured to cloak the glow of thousands of baby squid, which each have luminous glowing spots near their eyes.

    “My research suggests they’re not the T-Rex of the sea, they get more docile as they mature. . . as she got older she got shorter and broader and was reduced to a giant gelatinous blob, carrying many thousands of eggs,” he said at the defrosting.

    “It’s likely she was just blobbing around the seabed carrying her brood of eggs, living on dead fish, while her mate was off hunting.”

    Discovery Channel US filmed the defrosting and examination of the colossal squid for a documentary that was released in the North America earlier this year.


  2. Pingback: Antarctic colossal squid examined in New Zealand | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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