Museum scientist, Jonathan Ablett, injecting a giant squid specimen with a formol-saline solution

Museum scientist, Jonathan Ablett, injecting the Museum's giant squid specimen with a formol-saline solution.


The body of a squid is also referred to as the mantle. It houses the squid's:

  • digestive, reproductive and respiratory systems
  • ink sac
  • pen, or gladius

The giant squid has a pair of fins at the tip of the mantle.


Next to the mantle is the head which contains the:

  • 2 eyes
  • doughnut-shaped brain
  • beak

Giant squid have a parrot-like beak that

  • lies at the end of the head in between the 8 arms and 2 tentacles
  • is made up of chitin and cross-linked proteins
  • is used to kill prey and to tear it into pieces small enough to ingest

It was previously thought that giant squid had the largest eye of any living species but this record is now held by the colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni Robson, 1935) which has an eye with a diameter of around 27cm. 

The 2 eyes in the giant squid contain a hard lens which is focused through movement, like a camera, rather than changing shape as the lens in the human eye does.

Arms and tentacles

Giant squid, like most squid, have:

  • 8 shorter arms covered with 2 rows of suckers
  • 2 longer tentacles with 4 rows of suckers called the tentacle club at the end of them