Colossal Squid of Modern Day

Unfortunately for scientists, but good for the rest of us, humans do not meet up with giant squids very often. (There is at least one report from World War II of survivors of a sunken ship being attacked by a giant squid that ate one of the party) Squids are thought to be deep dwelling, open sea creatures. Work by Dr. Ole Brix, of the University of Bergen, indicates the blood of squids does not carry oxygen very well at higher temperatures. A squid might actually suffocate in warm water.

According to Dr. Malcom Clarke, of the Marine Biological Association , temperature also seems to affect the squid's buoyancy mechanism. Warm water will cause a giant squid to rise to the surface and not be able to get back down. With water temperature even higher at the surface, the squid maybe doomed. It is not surprising then, that most squid groundings occur near where two ocean streams, one cold and one warm, meet. Perhaps the squid found himself suddenly in water too warm for him.

Despite numerous attempts rarely has anyone ever seen a giant squid in the deep sea, so it is very hard for scientists to know much about how they live. One ambitious effort led by Clyde Roper in 1997 tried to capture pictures of a live squid in it's natural habitat by employing sperm whales. A "crittercam" was attached to the back of a whale with the lens looking in the same direction as the nose of the animal. It was hoped that when the whale went searching for it's dinner in the depths the camera might get a glimpse of its prey. The device was designed to detach from the whale after a couple hours and float to the surface where it could be picked up and the recording examined by the scientists. Unfortunately, while the camera captured some fascinating pictures of the whales, no giant squid was seen.

Description of Colossal Squid

Colossal squids, Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni (Robson, 1925), aka Antarctic cranch squids, are one of the largest, most elusive, and mysterious of the cephalopods. These massive squids are reported to measure up to 14 m in total length with mantle lengths of about 2-4 m (which would make adult colossal squids quite a bit larger than giant squids, Architeuthis dux) and they can weigh an estimated 150 kg.

These amazing creatures were first identified in 1925 when 2 colossal squid arms were recovered from a sperm whale's stomach. Since then, few specimens have been recovered and there is still very little known about this species. Colossal squids have eyes that measure about 25 cm in diameter which are thought to be the largest eyes in the entire animal kingdom. They also have the largest beaks of any squid, which makes them a fearsome predator along with the 25 rotating hooks found in two rows on the ends of their tentacles.

Eating Habits of Colossal Squid

Colossal squid have a very narrow oesophagus between their mouth and their stomach, and have to bite their food into small pieces before they swallow it. No intact stomach has ever been recovered, but behaviour suggests a fondness for toothfish. Many squid are cannibalistic, so colossal squid may even eat each other from time to time.

May 5, 2008 -- Scientists examining the world's largest known colossal squid this week could find nothing in the cephalopod's stomach, suggesting the large marine animal was starving when it was captured in February of 2007.

That might help to explain why the squid was caught in the first place. The huge, jelly-like animal from Antarctica was voraciously eating an Antarctic toothfish hooked in a New Zealand long-line fishing operation in the Ross Sea when fishermen hauled up their catch, revealing the then half-dead, enormous squid.

The word "toothfish" generally refers to two closely related species: the Patagonian toothfish, popularly known as Chilean sea bass, and Antarctic cod, which is sometimes referred to as Antarctic toothfish. Both species possess a rather toothy, gaped mouth, hence the name, and can grow to around 7 feet or more in length.

Recently it was determined that the Antarctic toothfish possesses special proteins in its body that act like anti-freeze, preventing its blood from freezing into a solid block in the ice-laden, high latitude waters where it lives. Both the toothfish and the colossal squid favor deep water, 3,000 or more feet below the surface, and each has developed special adaptations to live and hunt in the darkness of that environment.

Giant Squid Facts  |  Myth of the "Kraken"