Colossal Squid May Be Microwaved

Dave Hansford
for National Geographic News
March 23, 2007

A colossal squid, the stuff of ancient mariners' nightmares, is giving modern scientists a few headaches.

Caught in the Antarctic by fishers in February, the half-ton animal is likely the largest known colossal squid—and it may be headed for a giant microwave oven.

The colossal squid was frozen after capture to preserve it for study. But now thawing out its massive bulk poses a huge problem for Steve O'Shea, the Auckland University of Technology's resident squid expert, who is involved with the project.

"Our major concern is how to defrost this animal quickly," he says. "Conventional defrosting techniques on an animal this size would take [more than] four days."

The squid's mantle—the wide part of the body above the tentacles—is much harder than the soft tissue of the tentacles, posing a real danger of damage if the creature is simply left to thaw out naturally.

"Some tissues would have decomposed whilst the center of the animal would remain frozen," O'Shea said.


New Zealand's national museum, Te Papa Tongarewa, invited the public to suggest solutions, prompting more than 400 responses.

Top of the list so far is the idea of using an industrial microwave machine, such as those used to dry timber.

O'Shea said museum scientists are considering the giant-microwave option.

But John Ablett, mollusk curator at England's Natural History Museum, said the idea is "crazy."

"The skin in particular is very soft and easily torn," he said. Microwaving would pose "a big risk of damage to the specimen."

Continued on Next Page >>




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