No, it's not the basis of a bad horror movie...this is for real!
Researchers in Japan have caught a real, living, 24-foot long, giant squid off coast of the Ogasawara Islands south of Tokyo. 24 feet! That is taller than 4 people standing one on top of another. And to top it all off, the squid that was caught was not fully grown; scientists believe that these squid can grow up to 60 feet long!!!
There are two neat things about this finding: 1) This female is the first giant squid to be caught alive, and 2) Researchers believe that she's not as rare as once believed, which means that the researchers may be more successful in the future at studying these magnificent creatures.
Believe it or not, giant squid, which are from the genus Architeuthis, are the largest invertebrates known to humankind. They were once thought to be mythical creatures because they were so elusive and hard to find; in reality, these squid are deep-ocean dwellers, which is why they have been so hard to catch.
Previous knowledge about giant squid has been gleaned from debris from dead ones that have washed up onto shore or from the digestive systems of large whales and sharks. Now, for the first time, scientists will be able to study a real, living one.
Did you know? The eyes of the giant squid can be over 30 cm (one foot) in diameter, their tentacles have hundreds of suction cups which can vary from 2-5 cm in diameter and they can weigh up to 900 kg!
One predator of the giant squid is the sperm whale; there are not many animals big enough to tackle such a large meal. In fact, it was the whales that led researcher Tsunemi Kubodera and his team to the squid. Kubodera presumed that he would be able to find the squid by searching where the whales feed, and this is exactly what his research team did.
Doing the math, Kubodera estimates that the giant squid are not as rare as once believed. Sperm whales have a daily intake of 1000-2000 lbs of food (yikes!) and there are an estimated 200,000 of these whales in existence. According to Kubodera, this suggests that there are plenty of squid out there for the sperm whale to feed on. However, further research is needed to be for certain.
Thumbnail photo credit: Giant squid, Architeuthis sp., modified from an illustration by A.E. Verrill, 1880 (Wikipedia)
"Researchers catch giant squid" on CNN Website
Giant Squid on Wikipedia