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Monday! And today we will learn about the fearsome, rather fascinating giant squid, or Architeuthis dux =)

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Giant squid attacking ship
Giant squid attacking a ship
Imagine...it's several centuries ago, and you are a sailor on a large ship. Perhaps you are exploring hitherto unknown seas. Perhaps you are traveling to find spices and silks. Perhaps you are a pirate. Suddenly, a thick, hideous tentacle latches on to your ship, followed by more. There are enormous suckers with teeth! Truly, a creature of nightmares. But it is not a nightmare. The creature seizes your ship, and you and your shipmates are tossed into the sea, most likely to drown.

Giant squid were thought to be mythological, but they do in fact exist. However, until recently, not much was known about them because only dead ones had ever been found.

Very little is known about the giant squid. We don't know what they eat or how they find a mate. We do know the giant squid is a predator and many of its body parts are suited to hunting:

    Their eyes are the size of footballs. They are the largest eyes in the animal kingdom, extremely useful for spotting prey.
    Teeth-filled suckers cover their eight arms and the clubs of their two extra long tentacles. The suckers are used to grab and drag prey.
    A razor-sharp beak tears into prey such as other squid and fish.

Source
The giant squid, Architeuthis dux, was described by Steenstrup in Harting in 1860. It is the only species in the genus Architeuthidae.

Giant squid are the largest known cephalopod. Colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni Robson, 1935) may reach greater lengths or mass but no complete, fully grown specimens have ever been recorded.

In the past, giant squid were often misreported as reaching lengths of up to 20 metres. Scientists now believe that adult females may only reach a total length of 15m, with adult males reaching up to 10m in length.

Most of the giant squid material in museum collections comes from specimens that have been found washed up on beaches or come from the stomach contents of sperm whales which feed on giant squid.

Cattus Minor just informed me that in fact, an intact colossal squid HAS been found! Colossal Squid Exhibition

A female giant squid, nicknamed Archie, was caught alive and presented to the Natural History Museum:

The specimen was caught:

    by the Falkland Island-registered trawler, John Cheek, on 15 March 2004 at 13:15.
    15.6km (9.7 miles) north-west of Port Stephens Settlement, Falkland Islands, about 2km from the coast.

The ship's captain gave it to the research station on the Falkland Islands who donated it to the Natural History Museum on the provision that it was put on public display.

The specimen is:

    female
    8.62m long, with a mantle length of 1.94m
    stored in a 6% formol-saline solution in the basement of the Darwin Centre's Zoology spirit building

It can be seen on a free guided Spirit Collection Tour.

More
Giant squid specimen in tank
Archie in her tank
Watch videos of a giant squid

In Search of Giant Squid

Oh my goodness!

A giant squid hoax

Faked pic of giant squid
Ack!
It took extreme resourcefulness to finally film a live giant squid:
Giant squid, live
First live giant squid ever filmed
Two Japanese researchers, Tsunemi Kubodera of Tokyo’s National Science Museum and Kyoichi Mori of the Ogasawara Whale Watching Association, had a different idea. First, they identified an area where fishing boat captains and tourists had seen sperm whales with sucker marks on their skin, indicating a confrontation with the giant squid. They rode out to the spot on a Japanese fishing boat. Then, they lowered a hook baited with a single small squid, nearly 3,000 feet down. Also attached to the line: an automated digital camera that snapped a picture every few minutes.

The two squid hunters had little luck for years. Then, on September 30, 2004, in the waters off Japan’s Ogasawara Islands, they succeeded. A squid about 25 feet long rose from the depths and took the bait. One of its arms got snagged on the hook. For more than four hours, it struggled to get free. Finally, the snagged tentacle broke off. By the time it was all over, the camera had snapped more than 500 pictures of the squid, which scientists call Architeuthis. When they pulled up the camera, the researchers retrieved the 5-foot-long tentacle tip as a souvenir. When Mori took it off the hook, he later told reporters, it was still moving. Its suckers even stuck on to the deck.

Source

Here is a fun pic of the suckers:

Squid tentacles with teeth (beaks.)
Preserved squid tentacle with scary hooks, NHM UK
The only natural predator of the giant squid is the sperm whale.

Pic of whale and giant squid that I cannot right-click on...

And we'll close on a soft and cuddly note:  

Adorable stuffed squid
Hope that everyone has sweet, squid-free dreams, and a pleasant day =)
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