A colossal catch

04 May 2008
Posted by Chris Smith.

Scientists this week have been unravelling some of the mysteries of the deep, with a specimen of the Colossal Squid that has been taken out of the freezer and slowly thawed at the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington. That is where is has been kept since it was caught by fishermen in the Ross Sea off Antarctica last year.

Colossal SquidWe know hardly anything about the Colossal squid - only eight have ever been found, mostly inside the stomachs of sperm whales. This specimen weighed nearly 500 kilos, or around the size of a young cow. With the tentacles stretched out, the squid is about ten metres long and it is thought they can grow to over fifteen metres.

One of the most extraordinary things they've discovered is its eye - bigger than a football with a lens the size of an orange, it's the largest eye in the animal kingdom and will help these illusive creatures hunt prey in the pitch black depths of the ocean when they can penetrate to two kilometres down.

Researchers thought the specimen was a male, but they found it had ovaries containing thousands of eggs making it undoubtedly a female.

When they've finishing studying, the squid will be embalmed and preserved.

A few colossal facts:o    The scientific name for Colossal squid is Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoniColossal Squid Dissectiono    This specimen was caught by a New Zealand long-line boat targeting Patagonian Toothfish in 2007.o    The species was first discovered in 1925, when the tentacles and head were found inside a Sperm Whaleo    Many squid are cannibalistic, so the colossal squid might feed on each other.o    The squid's eyes are lined by a row of light-emitting photophores, which may help disguise the solid eyes from prey when they are hunting - the rest of the squid is transparent and so the solid eyes would appear as dark silhouettes without these lights.o    They are likely to be formidable predators, with barbed clubs at the end of their tentacles.

You can find out more about the dissection and preservation of the Colossal Squid at
Te Papa's Blog.

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