World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Colossal squid

Article Id: WHEBN0020975773
Reproduction Date:

Title: Colossal squid  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Squid, Cephalopod attack, Lego Aqua Raiders, Cape Cod and the Islands/Selected article/11, Sea Monsters
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Colossal squid

Colossal squid
Size compared to an average human
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Cephalopoda
Order: Teuthida
Family: Cranchiidae
Subfamily: Taoniinae
Genus: Mesonychoteuthis
Robson, 1925
Species: M. hamiltoni
Binomial name
Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni
Robson, 1925
Global range of M. hamiltoni

The colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, from Greek mesos (middle), nycho (claw, nail), and teuthis (squid)), sometimes called the Antarctic or giant cranch squid, is believed to be the largest squid species in terms of mass. It is the only known member of the genus Mesonychoteuthis. It is known from only a few specimens, and current estimates put its maximum size at 12–14 m (39–46 ft) long,[1] based on analysis of smaller and immature specimens, making it the largest known invertebrate.


Unlike the giant squid, whose arms and tentacles only have suckers lined with small teeth, the colossal squid's limbs are also equipped with sharp hooks: some swivelling, others three-pointed.[2] Its body is wider and stouter, and therefore heavier, than that of the giant squid. Colossal squid are believed to have longer mantles than giant squid, but shorter tentacles.

The squid exhibits abyssal gigantism. The beak of M. hamiltoni is the largest known of any squid, and more robust than that of Architeuthis (giant squid). The colossal squid also has the largest eyes documented in the animal kingdom; a partly collapsed specimen measured 27 cm (11 in).[3][4]


The squid's known range extends thousands of kilometres northward from Antarctica to southern South America, southern South Africa, and the southern tip of New Zealand, making it primarily an inhabitant of the entire circumantarctic Southern Ocean.

Ecology and life history

Little is known about the life of this creature, but it is believed to feed on prey such as chaetognatha, large fish such as the Patagonian toothfish, and other squid in the deep ocean using bioluminescence. The colossal squid is thought to have a slow metabolic rate, needing only around 30 grams (1.1 oz) of prey daily.[5] Estimates of its energetic demands suggest it is a slow-moving ambush predator, using its large eyes primarily for predator detection rather than active hunting.[5][6]

Based on capture depths of a few specimens, and beaks found in sperm whale stomachs, the adult colossal squid ranges at least to a depth of 2.2 km (7,200 ft), and juveniles can go as deep as 1 km (3,300 ft). It is believed to be sexually dimorphic, with mature females generally being much larger than mature males, as is common in many species of invertebrates.

The squid's method of reproduction has not been observed, although some data on their reproduction can be inferred from anatomy. Since males lack an organ called a hectocotylus (an arm used in other cephalopods to transfer a spermatophore to the female), they probably use a penis instead, which would be used to directly implant sperm into females.

Many sperm whales have scars on their backs, believed to be caused by the hooks of colossal squid. Colossal squid are a major prey item for sperm whales in the Antarctic; 14% of the squid beaks found in the stomachs of these sperm whales are those of the colossal squid, which indicates that colossal squid make up 77% of the biomass consumed by these whales.[7] Many other animals also feed on colossal squid, including beaked whales (such as the southern bottlenose whale), pilot whales, southern elephant seals, Patagonian toothfish, sleeper sharks (Somniosus antarcticus), and albatrosses (e.g., the wandering and sooty albatrosses). However, beaks from mature adults have only been recovered from large predators (i.e. sperm whales and sleeper sharks), while the other predators only eat juveniles or young adults.[8]


The species was first discovered in the form of two tentacles found in the stomach of a sperm whale in 1925.[9] In 1981 a Russian trawler in the Ross Sea, off the coast of Antarctica, caught a large squid with a total length of 4 m (13 ft), which was later identified as an immature female of M. hamiltoni.[10] In 2003 a complete specimen of a subadult female was found near the surface with a total length of 6 m (20 ft) and a mantle length of 2.5 m (8.2 ft).[11]

In 2005 a specimen was captured at a depth of 1,625 m (5,331 ft) while taking a [12]

The largest recorded specimen was captured in 2007 by a New Zealand fishing boat off Antarctica. It was initially estimated to measure 10 m (33 ft) in length and weigh 450 kg (990 lb). The squid was taken back to New Zealand for scientific study.[13] A study on the specimen later showed its actual weight was 495 kg (1,091 lb), but it only measured 4.2 m (14 ft) in total length as a result of the tentacles' shrinking post mortem.[14]

Largest known specimen

This specimen, caught in early 2007, is the largest cephalopod ever recorded. Here it is shown in its live state during capture, with the delicate red skin still intact and the mantle characteristically inflated.

On February 22, 2007, authorities in New Zealand announced the largest known colossal squid had been captured. The specimen weighed 495 kg (1,091 lb) and was initially estimated to measure 10 m (33 ft) in total length. Fishermen on the vessel San Aspiring, owned by the Sanford Seafood Company, caught the animal in the freezing Antarctic waters of the Ross Sea. It was brought to the surface as it fed on an Antarctic toothfish that had been caught off a long line. It would not let go of its prey and could not be removed from the line by the fishermen, so they decided to catch it instead. They managed to envelop it in a net, haul it aboard, and freeze it. The specimen eclipsed the previous largest find in 2003 by about 195 kg (430 lb),[15][16] although it is still considerably smaller than some estimates have predicted. The specimen was frozen in a cubic metre of water and transported to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, New Zealand's national museum.[17][18] Media reports suggested scientists at the museum were considering using a giant microwave to defrost the squid because defrosting it at room temperature would take days and it would likely rot on the outside while the core remained frozen.[19] However, they later opted for the more conventional approach of thawing the specimen in a bath of salt water.[20][21] After thawing, the squid measured only 4.2 m (14 ft) in total length, with the tentacles having shrunk significantly.[14] Although initially thought to be a male, closer inspection of the specimen showed it to be a female.[4]

Defrosting and dissection, April–May 2008

Thawing and dissection of the specimen took place at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa[20] under the direction of senior biologist Chris Paulin, with technician Mark Fenwick, Dutch marine biologist and toxicologist Olaf Blaauw, AUT biologist Steve O'Shea, Tsunemi Kubodera, and AUT biologist Kat Bolstad.

Parts of the specimen have been examined:

  • The beak is considerably smaller than some found in the stomachs of sperm whales,[22][23] suggesting other colossal squid are much larger than this one.[22][23]
  • The eye is 27 cm (11 in) wide, with a lens 12 cm (4.7 in) across. This is the largest eye of any known animal.[3] These measurements are of the partly collapsed specimen; when living the eye was probably 30[4] to 40 cm (12 to 16 in) across.[24]
  • Inspection of the specimen with an endoscope revealed ovaries containing thousands of eggs.[4]


The specimen on display at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is displaying this specimen in an exhibition which opened on December 13, 2008, and is still running as of June 2014.[25]

Second Specimen

In August 2014, Te Papa received a second colossal squid, captured in early 2014.[26] The specimen was also female, was 3.5 metres long and weighed approximately 350kg.[27]


  1. ^ Anderton, H.J. 2007. Amazing specimen of world's largest squid in NZ. New Zealand Government website.
  2. ^ Te Papa: Hooks and Suckers. (2008-04-30). Retrieved on 2011-09-30.
  3. ^ a b Scientists focus on colossal squid's eyes Radio New Zealand.
  4. ^ a b c d Richard Black "Colossal squid's big eye revealed". BBC News, April 30, 2008.
  5. ^ a b Rosa, R. & B.A. Seibel 2010. Slow pace of life of the Antarctic colossal squid. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, published online on April 20, 2010. doi:10.1017/S0025315409991494
  6. ^ Bourton, J. 2010. Monster colossal squid is slow not fearsome predator. BBC Earth News, May 7, 2010.
  7. ^ Clarke, M.R. (1980). "Cephalopoda in the diet of sperm whales of the southern hemisphere and their bearing on sperm whale biology". Discovery Reports 37: 1–324.
  8. ^ Cherel, Y. & G. Duhamel 2004. Antarctic jaws: cephalopod prey of sharks in Kerguelen waters. PDF (531 KB) Deep-Sea Research I 51: 17–31.
  9. ^ Robson, G.C. 1925. On Mesonychoteuthis, a new genus of oegopsid, Cephalopoda. Annals and Magazine of Natural History, Series 9, 16: 272–277.
  10. ^ Ellis, R. 1998. The Search for the Giant Squid. The Lyons Press.
  11. ^ Kim Griggs "Super squid surfaces in Antarctic". BBC News, April 2, 2003.
  12. ^ "Very Rare Giant Squid Caught Alive" ''South Georgia Newsletter''. Retrieved on 2011-09-30.
  13. ^ "NZ fishermen pull monster squid from Antarctic deep", BBC
  14. ^ a b Atkinson, Kent (May 1, 2008). "Size matters on 'squid row' (+photos, video)".  
  15. ^ Marks, Kathy (March 23, 2007). "NZ's colossal squid to be microwaved".  
  16. ^ "New giant squid predator found". BBC News. January 8, 2004. Retrieved 14 February 2007. 
  17. ^ "Colossal squid may be headed for the oven in New Zealand", Associated Press (International Herald Tribune), March 22, 2007.
  18. ^ Kim Griggs, "Colossal squid's headache for science", BBC News, March 15, 2007.
  19. ^ Record Giant Squid Put on Ice. The Associated Press (via Life Science). 22 March 2007
  20. ^ a b Te Papa's Specimen: The Thawing and Examination. Retrieved on 2011-09-30.
  21. ^ Richard Black "Colossal squid out of the freezer". BBC News, April 26, 2008.
  22. ^ a b Thawing colossal squid continues to reveal information Radio New Zealand.
  23. ^ a b Massive squid may be just a babe The Star, South Africa.
  24. ^ World's biggest squid reveals 'beach ball' eyes AFP, via Google.
  25. ^ "The Colossal Squid Exhibition - Exhibition". Retrieved 2012-03-15. The colossal squid is due for a check-up in March this year. We'll assess her condition and decide how long she can safely stay on display. She'll be with us until at least August 2012 
  26. ^ "Is it a boy? Te Papa gets new colossal squid". 11 August 2014. Retrieved 26 September 2014. 
  27. ^ "Scientists Found Only The Second Intact Colossal Squid — Here's What It Looks Like". 16 September 2014. Retrieved 26 September 2014. 

Further reading

  • Aldridge, A.E. 2009. Can beak shape help to research the life history of squid? New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 43(5): 1061–1067. doi:10.1080/00288330.2009.9626529
  • (Russian) Klumov, S.K. & V.L. Yukhov 1975. Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni Robson, 1925 (Cephalopoda, Oegopsida). Antarktika Doklady Komission 14: 159–189. [English translation: TT 81-59176, Al Ahram Center for Scientific Translations]
  • McSweeny, E.S. 1970. Description of the juvenile form of the Antarctic squid Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni Robson. Malacologia 10: 323–332.
  • Rodhouse, P.G. & M.R. Clarke 1985. Growth and distribution of young Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni Robson (Mollusca: Cephalopoda): an Antarctic squid. Vie Milieu 35(3–4): 223–230.

External links

  • "CephBase: Colossal squid". Archived from the original on 2005. 
  • Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoniTree of Life web project:
  • Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa(Te Papa) Colossal Squid Specimen Information
  • Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa(Te Papa) Colossal Squid Images and Video
  • Giant Squid and Colossal Squid Fact Sheet
  • : Fishermen haul in world's biggest squidNew Zealand Herald
  • : Colossal Squid Caught off AntarcticaNational Geographic News
  • : Colossal Squid Revealed in First In-Depth LookNational Geographic News
  • : Colossal Squid Caught in Antarctic WatersUSA Today
  • BBC: Super squid surfaces in Antarctic
  • Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoniMarineBio:
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.