Marine biologists in New Zealand are thawing the corpse of the largest squid ever caught in order to learn more about one of the ocean’s most mysterious creatures.
The Colossal Squid, as the species is known, was landed by fishermen in the Ross Sea near Antarctica in February 2007. It measures 8-meters long and weighs 494 kilograms.
Once it is thawed — the process is being broadcast live on the Internet — the beast will be examined and samples will be taken. It will be the first time the species will be studied by scientists.
Photo courtesy of the New Zealand Fisheries department
“As the specimen is still folded in a block we are using an underwater camera to determine how the specimen is positioned,” stated a post on the Te Papa Tongarewa blog. “The camera revealed the eye!”
“The eye is HUGE!”the blog post continued. “The lens alone is 10-15 cm across, but we won’t be able to get an exact measurement until it has thawed further.”
The researchers say the specimen will eventually be put on display in an 1,800-gallon tank at New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington.
“On-going examination of this giant will help to unlock some of the mysteries of the deep ocean. Even basic questions such as such as how large does this species grow to, and how long does it live for are not yet known,” New Zealand Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said in a statement announcing the catch. “On-going examination of this giant will help to unlock some of the mysteries of the deep ocean. Even basic questions such as such as how large does this species grow to, and how long does it live for are not yet known.”
The Colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) — a marine mollusk related to cuttlefish, octopus, and giant squid — is one of the least known sea animals. The species is believed to grow up to 14 meters (46 feet) in length and feed on large fish and other squid in the deep ocean using bioluminescence. Sperm whales, which sometimes bear scars from the hooked tentacles of the colossal squid, are thought to be the only predator of adult squid, which can dive to depths exceeding 2200 meters.
The better known giant squid is found in waters around New Zealand. In 2005 Japanese researchers captured the first video footage of a live giant squid off the coast of Japan. The video quickly became a sensation.
This article is based on previous mongabay.com posts, a Reuters article, and media resources from Te Papa Tongarewa