Thursday, September 29, 2005

Behold, the giant squid!















I've been somewhat unwell the past day or so, hence the paucity of posts, but if the giant squid can make an appearance, well, so can I.

Yes, the giant squid, one of the great monsters of the deep and one of the most curious creatures on the planet, has finally been filmed live in its own habitat:

Like something straight out of a Jules Verne novel, an enormous tentacled creature looms out of the inky blackness of the deep Pacific waters.

But this isn't science fiction. A set of
extraordinary images captured by Japanese scientists marks the first-ever record of a live giant squid (Architeuthis) in the wild.

The animal—which measures roughly 25 feet (8 meters) long—was photographed 2,950 feet (900 meters) beneath the North Pacific Ocean. Japanese scientists attracted the squid toward cameras attached to a baited fishing line.

The scientists say they snapped more than 500 images of the massive cephalopod before it broke free after snagging itself on a hook. They also recovered one of the giant squid's two longest tentacles, which severed during its struggle...

The Japanese researchers used sperm whales as guides to help them pinpoint likely giant squid haunts. Over the years whalers have reported finding a high number of large squid beaks in the mammals' stomachs, pegging sperm whales as primary predators of large squid.

Quite extraordinary. (Certainly more so than the indictment and subsequent resignation of that monster of the political deep, Tom DeLay.)

For more, see Slate's "explainer" on why giant squids are so hard to find. And on how they differ from your everyday, garden-variety squid:

What's the difference between squid and giant squid? The giant squid isn't just a big ol' version of a regular squid—it has its own genus, called Architeuthis. (There may be several species of giant squid, but no one knows for sure.) The lesser-known "colossal squid," of the genus Mesonychoteuthis, may be even bigger and nastier than the giant squid. It has a larger beak than the giant squid and has hooks on its tentacles. While a few specimens of colossal squids have been discovered, no one has yet seen one in its natural habitat.

Think about that the next time you bite into that grilled calamari appetizer or that succulent piece of ika sushi.

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