Largest Squid Ever Caught Is "Giant, Gelatinous Blob"

Dave Hansford in Wellington, New Zealand
for National Geographic News
August 25, 2008

Armed with giant tentacles, swiveling hooks, and the world's largest eyes, the colossal squid is thought to be the biggest squid species and the source of centuries-old sea monster myths.

But the largest squid ever caught was "a giant, gelatinous blob," sluggish and highly vulnerable to predators, a squid expert who dissected the specimen said last week.

(See the first close-up photos of the colossal squid.)

The dissection of the half-ton female at a New Zealand museum in April suggests she was an egg-producing machine, which—like most squid—would probably have given birth once before dying, said Steve O'Shea of New Zealand's Auckland University of Technology.

The 30-foot-long (10-meter) squid, snagged on a fishing line off Antarctica in 2007 (photos), carried some partially developed eggs. But when fully mature, he said, she would have had "many, many thousands of eggs" inside her mantle cavity, a chamber inside her tubular upper body.

That may explain why she had been scavenging from fishing lines, rather than actively hunting.

Not-So-Colossal Cousin

O'Shea stressed that much of his work was still theoretical.

"Life cycles, reproductive strategies, egg brooding, all the behavior of these things is basically unknown, so we've got to make do with the most closely related example for which we have more information."

That example, he said, is Teuthowenia pellucida, "a small-bodied colossal-squid equivalent in New Zealand waters," he said.

Though it grows to only about 8 inches (20 centimeters) long—versus the colossal squid's estimated 50 feet (15 meters)—Teuthowenia is "basically identical," O'Shea said.

Female Teuthowenia that have mated carry "very large eggs" in their mantle cavities.

Continued on Next Page >>


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