Rare colossal squid found near Antarctica
April 03, 2003, 08:30
A rare and dangerous squid, with eyes the size of dinner plates and scores of razor-sharp hooks to snag its prey, has been caught by fishermen off Antarctica, New Zealand scientists said today.
The half-grown female colossal squid is only the second intact example of the monster cephalopod known to have been found, said Steve O'Shea, a marine biologist of New Zealand's national museum. "I've seen 105 giant squid, but seeing something like this is pretty sensational," O'Shea said.
A trawler caught the 150 kg squid in the sub-Antarctic Ross Sea, which is about 3 600 km south of Wellington.
The squid was eating Patagonian Toothfish, which grow to two metres in length, when it was caught. It was dead when it was hauled into the trawler, and the remains are now in the New Zealand national museum.
The body of the colossal squid is much bigger than the giant squid, which can weigh up to 900 kg when fully grown. A giant squid's tentacles can be up to 13 m long, compared with 5 m on the recovered creature.
Comparisons are difficult because of the colossal squid's hostile environment and rarity. Five of the six previous discoveries have only been pieces inside sperm whale stomachs.
Kat Bolstad, an American marine biologist, said the colossal squid was a more dangerous animal than the giant squid, the mythical monster of the deep that attacked Captain Nemo's Nautilus in Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
"This is a very aggressive animal and moves quickly. If you fell in the water next to it you would be in big trouble," said Bolstad.
The colossal squid finds food by literally glowing in the dark, deep waters, to light up prey for its massive eyes, the biggest of any animal. However, it is the colossal squid's weaponry that marks it out from its giant cousin. Its eight arms and two tentacles have up to 25 teeth-like hooks, which are deeply rooted into its muscle, and are able to rotate 360 degrees. The fish also has unusual suckers to ensure fish do not escape.
The hooks not only hold fish for the squid's two parrot-like beaks, but also are used to fend off attacks from hungry sperm whales, O'Shea said.
The species was previously thought to have lurked at least a kilometre down in the freezing waters near Antarctica, but the specimen, found a fort night ago, was discovered near the surface.
O'Shea said the discovery raised questions about what else was down deep in the ocean.
"We know so little about the marine environment in general. If animals like this are turning up, what's going to be at 3 000 m depth. We don't know," O'Shea said. - Reuters
I saw footage of this animal on the news. It's amazing.... the size of the eyes, two beaks, the size (and not yet fully grown), the hooks and tentacles.
I hate deep dark water, but I find it fascinating thinking what could be down there (some of my favourite parts of the Space Odyssey books (2001, 2010, 2061, 3001) are the underwater scenes).
Diagram of it here:http://www.tiscali.co.uk/cgi-bin/new...quidfound.html