WORLD'S LARGEST SQUID FINDS ITS FINAL RESTING PLACE
In 2007 a commercial fishing crew and a Ministry of Fisheries observer caught New Zealand’s best specimen of an adult colossal squid in the Ross Sea.
The 459kg colossal squid was caught onboard the New Zealand vessel, San Aspiring, owned by Sanford Ltd which was fishing for Antarctic toothfish. The squid is thought to be the first complete adult colossal squid ever landed.
It was brought to the surface on a long-line that had been set for toothfish and was holding on to a toothfish when first seen. The crew stopped fishing and all care was taken to get it aboard and preserve it as a specimen for science.
The squid was barely alive when it reached the surface and observers and crew thought it would be very unlikely to survive if released.
The squid was taken on board by lowering a cargo net, manipulating it into it and hauling it aboard. The process took about two hours and once the specimen was safely stored aboard, fishing recommenced.
The squid was put into a 1.5m² bin with a 1200 litre capacity and placed in the freezer in the hold below deck. It filled about two thirds of the bin.
The 4.2m long squid arrived in New Zealand in February 2007 and was gifted to New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa. Since its arrival it has been frozen, defrosted, examined and has been moved to a permanent purpose built display tank at Te Papa. It is the only colossal squid on public display in the world.
You can find out more about the exhibition on the Te Papa colossal squid website: http://squid.tepapa.govt.nz/
COLOSSAL SQUID: THE DETAILS
Colossal squid, with the scientific name of Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, is estimated to grow up to 12 to 14 metres long and is one of the most mysterious creatures in the deep ocean.
The colossal squid is the largest known squid species and the world’s largest invertebrate. It is believed to have the largest eyes in the animal kingdom (they can grow to be as big as dinner plates!).
The animal was first described in 1925 from two tentacles found in the stomach of a sperm whale. The squid’s known range is from Antarctica to the southern extremities of South America, South Africa and New Zealand.
Analysis of sperm whale stomachs suggests the colossal squid makes up three quarters of the diet of large sperm whales and it is likely there are large numbers of them in Antarctic waters.
Only a handful of colossal squid have been sighted. One was caught in the net of a Russian trawler in the Ross Sea at depth of 760m in 1981, another found near the surface in 2003 and another near South Georgia Island was brought up from a depth of 1625 metres on a toothfish longline in 2005.
It is believed that colossal squid hunt large fish, such as toothfish, and other squid.
Colossal squid are found in Antarctic waters and are not related to giant squid (Architeuthis species) found around the coast of New Zealand. Giant squid also grow up to 12 metres, but are not as heavy.
A key difference between the two species is the size of the mantle (body) in relation to the tentacles. The colossal squid has a much larger mantle and smaller tentacles than the giant squid, and is a much heavier animal.
Another difference is the sharp swivelling hooks the colossal squid has in the suckers at the tips of its tentacles, suggesting it is an aggressive hunter. The giant squid has suckers lined with small teeth.