Colossal Squid Has Glowing "Cloaking Device," Huge Eyes

Dave Hansford in Wellington, New Zealand
for National Geographic News
May 1, 2008

A colossal squid being defrosted this week in New Zealand is yielding "astonishing" new discoveries (see photos).

For starters, the giant species has the world's biggest eyes, as well as light-emitting organs that may serve as cloaking devices, scientists say.

As the 1,091-pound (495-kilogram) female gradually unfolded yesterday, she revealed her two 10.6-inch (27-centimeter) eyes (photo), stunning a team of international experts in a lab at Te Papa Tongarewa, New Zealand's national museum.

"They are clearly the largest eyes ever recorded from any animal," said biologist Dan-Eric Nilsson, of the University of Lund in Sweden. "About the size of a soccer ball."

The animal is the largest known specimen of a colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni)—and the largest captured squid of any species.

A fishing net had accidentally caught the giant in Antarctica's Ross Sea in February 2007. The squid was kept frozen until the scientific team could be assembled. (See a photo of the squid's capture.)

Nilsson, a specialist in animal eyes, said measurements of the squid's pupils would reveal more about the sensitivity of squid eyes.

"That will tell us everything we need to know about how much light they can actually pick up down there. But the massive size indicates the animal is very visual."

One of the eyes was found to be damaged. The team will use only nondestructive methods to examine the other eye, as the creature is destined for permanent display in the Wellington, New Zealand, museum.

(Watch video: "Colossal Squid Eyes Are Biggest" [April 30, 2008].)

"Absolutely Phenomenal"

"[The eyes] are absolutely phenomenal," said biologist Steve O'Shea of the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand.

Continued on Next Page >>




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