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Colossal squid rivals giant squid

23 February 2007

New Zealand fishermen have caught a rare colossal squid as it swam for food in Antarctic waters.

The spectacular specimen is nearly 10 metres long and is believed to weigh around half a tonne or 450 kilograms. It took the fishermen two hours to catch.

The colossal squid, Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni , is the largest living invertebrate and may be the first mature male specimen to have ever been found.

The only other complete colossal squid specimen to be caught was an immature female in the Ross Sea in 2004 weighing 300 kilograms.

Archie the giant squid

The Natural History Museum has a giant squid, Architeuthis dux , measuring 8.62 metres, pictured in the image above. Nicknamed Archie, it was caught alive and almost complete making it a very important specimen for research. Archie can be seen on bookable Explore tours .

Comparing the squids

Very little is known about these mysterious deep-sea creatures and what scientists do know often comes from the remains of dead or dying specimens.

By looking at the beaks found in the stomachs of sperm whales it is thought that the colossal squid can reach greater lengths than the giant squid and it is also thought to be much heavier.

Unlike the giant squid, most of the length of the colossal squid is taken up by the mantle (the body of the animal). It is also thought that they have even larger eyes than that of the giant squid giving them the largest eyes of any living animal on the planet.

Like the giant squid it has serrated, sharp suckers but the colossal squid also has two rows of hook-like swivelling suckers.

'This specimen is very important since we know very little about this animal and it gives scientists the first chance to study a mature adult specimen of this species,' says Jon Ablett, invertebrate expert at the Museum.

'Since the specimen is complete it will allow us to have a clearer idea of the physiology and biology of this creature and by analysing the remains in the squid's stomach we will have more data on what this species eats.'

DNA analysis

Since the specimen was caught alive it will be possible to take tissue samples for DNA analysis. This will allow scientists to see how closely related it is to other squid species.

It is also possible that isotope analysis could be done on the specimen. This involves looking at what isotopes (forms) of different elements are laid down in the tissues as the creature grows. This can give clues about where the animal lived and if it lived over a wide or narrow geographic range.

'Hopefully by studying this rare and amazing creature scientists can learn more about it and possibly have a greater insight in to how it lives.'

'I must admit that I am very jealous of the scientists who will get to work on and preserve this specimen as it would be fantastic to study such a large and mysterious squid,' concludes Ablett.