for National Geographic News
Editor's Note: For the latest on this story, see this update from December 22, 2006: "Photo in the News: Giant Squid Captured, Filmed for First Time"
Like something straight out of a Jules Verne novel, an enormous tentacled creature looms out of the inky blackness of the deep Pacific waters.
But this isn't science fiction. A set of extraordinary images captured by Japanese scientists marks the first-ever record of a live giant squid (Architeuthis) in the wild.
The animalwhich measures roughly 25 feet (8 meters) longwas photographed 2,950 feet (900 meters) beneath the North Pacific Ocean. Japanese scientists attracted the squid toward cameras attached to a baited fishing line.
The scientists say they snapped more than 500 images of the massive cephalopod before it broke free after snagging itself on a hook. They also recovered one of the giant squid's two longest tentacles, which severed during its struggle.
The photo sequence, taken off Japan's Ogasawara Islands in September 2004, shows the squid homing in on the baited line and enveloping it in "a ball of tentacles."
Tsunemi Kubodera of the National Science Museum in Tokyo and Kyoichi Mori of the Ogasawara Whale Watching Association report their observations this week in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
"Architeuthis appears to be a much more active predator than previously suspected, using its elongated feeding tentacles to strike and tangle prey," the researchers write.
They add that the squid was found feeding at depths where no light penetrates even during the day.
Despite people's fascination with this deep-sea behemoth, the giant squid's life and habits have remained largely a mystery. The little information known has been mostly based on dead and dying specimens that were caught by commercial fishing boats or washed ashore.
The mysterious creature has inspired countless sea monster tales and has been the subject of various scientific expeditions.
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