Are giant squids real?

13 June 2017

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Question

Is there such a thing as a giant squid?

Answer

Chris Smith asked Marine Biologist Danielle Green...

Danielle - Yeah there is actually and if you go onto youtube you can actually see some footage of the giant squid in its natural habitat. There was a documentary, I think it was 2013, where they went down in a submersible and filmed it in it’s natural habitat. It wasn’t easy to do, they tried all different techniques and ended up using other squids as bait to lure it in. It was shimmering and gold and the Professor who’s been studying his whole life for this moment was in tears - it was quite beautiful. They thought they were eight different species but recent genetic evidence has shown that there’s just one species, but they’re quite widely distributed globally.

They can get to about 14 metres long but the colossal squid is actually bigger than that and it’s heavier than that as well. That’s mostly confined to Antarctica.

Chris - The mantle and the long legs?

Danielle - Yeah. That’s the mantle and the tentacles as well - it’s heavier too.

Chris - How much do they weigh?

Danielle - They estimate that there was one that was 750 kilogrammes. That’s probably the biggest one. There are some people that think that the colossal squid and the giant squid both, both very very big, both the biggest invertebrates. There’s some evidence to suggest that there could be giant squid that are longer than that, up to 20 metres but it’s highly controversial and there’s lots of arguments going on about how big they can get.

Stuart - I found out a really crazy fact that I didn’t realise recently that some squids can change their colour. Is that something the giant squid can do - can it disguise itself and change the colour of it’s skin?

Danielle - Cuttlefish can change their colour very well. I think some squid can but I’m not sure about the giant squid - I don’t know.

Chris - They do have a relationship with a bacterium which is related to the bacteria that give us humans cholera. They can produce light and the squid have a structure on the skin which they can induce the colouration so they either feed or don’t feed the bacteria, and they can change whether or not they produce light so they can turn lights on or lights off on demand.

Danielle - Oh OK. Is that with the deep sea ones as well?

Chris - I don’t know if they’re the deep sea species.

Danielle - I bet people don’t even know yet because we actually know very little about them because it’s a difficult habitat to access and study.

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