|Size compared to an average human|
|Global range of M. hamiltoni|
The colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, from Greek mesos (middle), onyx (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, 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. 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, although their tentacles are shorter.
The squid exhibits abyssal gigantism. The beak of M. hamiltoni is the largest known of any squid, exceeding that of Architeuthis (giant squid) in size and in robustness. The colossal squid also has the largest eyes documented in the animal kingdom; a partly collapsed specimen measured 27 cm (11 in).
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. 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.
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 carry scars on their backs believed to be caused by the hooks of colossal squid. Colossal squid are a major prey item for Antarctic sperm whales feeding in the Southern Ocean; 14% of the squid beaks found in the stomachs of these sperm whales are those of the colossal squid, which indicates colossal squid make up 77% of the biomass consumed by these whales. Many other animals also feed on this 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 those animals large enough to take such prey (i.e. sperm whales and sleeper sharks), while the remaining predators are limited to eating juveniles or young adults.
The species was first discovered in the form of two tentacles found in the stomach of a sperm whale in 1925. 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. 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).
In 2005 a specimen was captured at a depth of 1,625 m (5,331 ft) while taking a toothfish from a longline off South Georgia Island. Although the mantle was not brought aboard, the mantle length was estimated at over 2.5 m (8.2 ft), and the tentacles measured 2.3 m (7.5 ft). The animal is thought to have weighed between 150 and 200 kg (330 and 440 lb).
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. 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.
Largest known specimen
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), 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. 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. However, they later opted for the more conventional approach of thawing the specimen in a bath of salt water. After thawing, the squid measured only 4.2 m (14 ft) in total length, with the tentacles having shrunk significantly. Although initially thought to be a male, closer inspection of the specimen showed it to be a female.
Defrosting and dissection, April–May 2008
Thawing and dissection of the specimen took place at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa 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, suggesting other colossal squid are much larger than this one.
- 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. These measurements are of the partly collapsed specimen; when living the eye was probably 30 to 40 cm (12 to 16 in) across.
- Inspection of the specimen with an endoscope revealed ovaries containing thousands of eggs.
- Anderton, H.J. 2007. Amazing specimen of world's largest squid in NZ. New Zealand Government website.
- Te Papa: Hooks and Suckers. Blog.tepapa.govt.nz (2008-04-30). Retrieved on 2011-09-30.
- Scientists focus on colossal squid's eyes Radio New Zealand.[dead link]
- Richard Black "Colossal squid's big eye revealed". BBC News, April 30, 2008.
- 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
- Bourton, J. 2010. Monster colossal squid is slow not fearsome predator. BBC Earth News, May 7, 2010.
- 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.
- Cherel, Y. & G. Duhamel 2004. PDF (531 KB) Deep-Sea Research I 51: 17–31.
- Robson, G.C. 1925. On Mesonychoteuthis, a new genus of oegopsid, Cephalopoda. Annals and Magazine of Natural History, Series 9, 16: 272–277.
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- "Very Rare Giant Squid Caught Alive" ''South Georgia Newsletter''. Sgisland.org. Retrieved on 2011-09-30.
- "NZ fishermen pull monster squid from Antarctic deep", BBC
- Atkinson, Kent (May 1, 2008). "Size matters on 'squid row' (+photos, video)". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved September 25, 2011.
- Marks, Kathy (March 23, 2007). "NZ's colossal squid to be microwaved". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved September 25, 2011.
- "New giant squid predator found". BBC News. January 8, 2004. Retrieved 14 February 2007.
- "Colossal squid may be headed for the oven in New Zealand", Associated Press (International Herald Tribune), March 22, 2007.
- Kim Griggs, "Colossal squid's headache for science", BBC News, March 15, 2007.
- Record Giant Squid Put on Ice. The Associated Press (via Life Science). 22 March 2007
- Te Papa's Specimen: The Thawing and Examination. Tepapa.govt.nz. Retrieved on 2011-09-30.
- Richard Black "Colossal squid out of the freezer". BBC News, April 26, 2008.
- Thawing colossal squid continues to reveal information Radio New Zealand.
- Massive squid may be just a babe The Star, South Africa.
- World's biggest squid reveals 'beach ball' eyes AFP, via Google.
- "The Colossal Squid Exhibition - Exhibition". tepapa.govt.nz. 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"
- 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.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni.|
|Wikispecies has information related to: Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni|
- "CephBase: Colossal squid". Archived from the original on 2005.
- Tree of Life web project: Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni
- Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa) Colossal Squid Specimen Information
- Tonmo.com: Giant Squid and Colossal Squid Fact Sheet
- New Zealand Herald: Fishermen haul in world's biggest squid
- National Geographic News: Colossal Squid Caught off Antarctica
- National Geographic News: Colossal Squid Revealed in First In-Depth Look
- USA Today: Colossal Squid Caught in Antarctic Waters
- BBC: Super squid surfaces in Antarctic
- MarineBio: Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni