Japanese researchers have finally caught on film a live giant squid. CNN has the video here.
While the achievement brings to a close a decades-long effort, the actual video is actually a bit sorrowful to behold. The researchers caught the squid on a line and hauled it to the surface. So the video isn’t of a majestic, free-swimming squid, but rather it looks like someone’s trophy-fishing home video.
Still, the squid is impressive, a lobster-colored tangle of tentacles. Occasionally, its long, graceful body drifts around and you can glimpse one volleyball-sized eye. The squid – a fairly small female – expels a few jets of water – presumably its last attempts to wrestle free of the hook. She died as researchers (who had hoped to keep her alive in captivity) hauled her aboard.
I have misgivings about this kind of brute-force biology. It seems that in today’s world we shouldn’t have to resort to Victorian-era description by destruction. But then, the first still photos of a live giant squid only arrived in the news last year – before that, all scientists had to work from were dead specimens washed ashore or found in the bellies of sperm whales (see this great 2004 New Yorker article). I suppose that’s one facet of the story to admire: as much discovery as the world has already given up, it still has room to hide a squid the length of a small elephant parade.
Giant squid (Architeuthis dux) can be as long as 18 meters, or more than two London buses, says the BBC. (This one was only about 4 meters long.) Their main predators are sperm whales, as judged by sperm whale stomachs as well as the whales’ sucker-scarred hides (Wikipedia has a photo), evidence of what clearly must be some epic underwater battles.
But don’t despair, there’s still time to get in on the documenting-massive-squid game. The giant squid pales in comparison to the even more mighty “colossal squid” recently pulled up from the very deep waters of Antarctica. No word on what this one had in its stomach, but I like the idea of a few lingering, indigestible pieces of the Nautilus.
Thanks to Nick Beck for the tip and BBC for the illustration.