Alec Harvey, skipper of the Empress Pearl could not believe his eyes when his vessel recently caught this enormous squid. It is the biggest he has ever seen. It was caught in 380m of water off the west coast of Tasmania. It was estimated at 2.5-3 metres long and weighing 80-100kgs.
Based mostly on its size Dr Julian Finn from the Melbourne Museum has tentatively identified the squid as being a ‘giant squid’ (Architeuthis dux).
There is some debate about whether different species of giant squid exist within the genus Architeuthis with some literature reporting eight species and some only a single specie. Some reports say that Alec’s squid was a tiddler with the maximum size reported at 14 metres long. Claims of 20 metre squid have not been scientifically documented.
Squid are a cephalopod and are propelled by pulling water into the mantle cavity, and pushing it through something called a siphon, in gentle, rhythmic pulses. They can also move quickly by expanding the cavity to fill it with water, then contracting muscles to jet water through the siphon.
Giant squid breathe using two large gills inside the mantle cavity. The circulatory system is closed, which is a distinct characteristic of cephalopods. Like other squid, they contain dark ink used to deter predators.
They have sophisticated nervous systems and a complex brain. The giant squid has the largest eyes of any living creature and can be up to 27cm in diameter.
Giant squid feed on deepsea fish and other squids. They catch prey using the two tentacles, gripping it with serrated sucker rings on the ends. Then they bring it toward the powerful beak, and shred it with the radula (a tongue with small, file-like teeth) before swallowing it. They are believed to be solitary hunters, as only individual giant squid have been caught in fishing nets.
Tales of giant squid have been common among mariners since ancient times, and may have led to the legend of the kraken a tentacled sea monster as large as an island capable of engulfing and sinking any ship. Eyewitness accounts of other sea monsters like the sea serpent are also thought to be mistaken interpretations of giant squid.
Whales are one of the giant squid’s few predators and much of the age data from giant squids come from giant squid mantle’s obtained from sperm whale stomachs.
In December 2005, the Melbourne Aquarium paid A$100,000 for the intact body of a 7 metre giant squid, preserved in a giant block of ice, which had been caught by fishermen off the coast of New Zealand’s South Island that year.
The video below is of a live giant squid filmed in a 2013 Discovery Channel documentary.