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Monday, June 22, 2020

Facts About Giant Squids

For ages, tales of giant squids mystified people of many cultures. The existence of these creatures were previously thought to be a myth and product of the imagination of seasick sailors. It was not until the 1920s when gigantic tentacles are seen intact inside the innards of sperm whales. Photographs of these ever-elusive creatures so rare that oceanographers needed special equipment or submersibles to capture them in their natural habitat. Here are some facts about colossal squids.

Colossal Squid, Giant Squid
Image: NBC
Giant squids have been terrorizing the oceans since the Triassic Period, just millions of years before the dinosaurs roamed the Earth.  With no natural predator that can feed on these giant creatures, ancestors of modern colossal squids put themselves at the top of the food chain in the ancient ocean of Thetys. Mainly feeding on ichthyosaurus, they are feared and lurk in the depths.

Ancient accounts of explorers and philosophers such as Pliny the Elder narrated the sightings of these creatures of the deep. In his book titled Natural History Pliny the Elder narrated how the beached remains of a 30 feet long colossal squid looked like and commented on its unbearable stench and the way sailors hauled its remains.

Contrary to popular belief, Greeks are not the ones who called the colossal squid the Kraken, it was the Norse. The wide use of the term Kraken started when the original Clash of the Titans was released in theaters. After all, the root word kraki, is Scandinavian not Greek.

There are several depictions of giant squids in popular culture and literature. The first and most famous usage of these creatures as a plot device is in Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. H.P Lovecraft's monsters like Chthulu got a design of its head similar to a giant squid

Mesonychoteuthis Hamiltoni or colossal squid possess the largest eyes of every animal in land, in air or at sea. With the diameter of eyes reaching 16 inches, the mere stare of the creature will evoke menace in its wake. The colossal squid is also the largest invertebrate still with us today.

There is limited data on how the colossal squid behaves in its natural habitat, there are only few photographic pieces of evidence that shed the light on how colossal squids live. After all, the first photograph of a live giant squid was only captured in 2004. he photo was captured by Japanese researchers off the coast of Ogasawara Islands. 2 years later, in the same island, a female giant squid was captured and subsequently documented.

Colossal Squid, Giant Squid
Image: The Guardian
Contrary to popular belief, colossal squid and giant squids are not the one and same. The giant squid has a longer body or tentacles, while the colossal squid is slightly shorter but heavier built. Colossal squids are found in the Antarctic region and in Oceania, while the giant squid is found around the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The most recent encounter of this creature and its documentation is a bizarre incident in the Gulf of Mexico. A group of researchers left a submersible that can emulate how a deep-sea bioluminescent creature would behave to attract a giant squid. Just right after the squid was caught on camera, a group of researchers proceeded to review the footage, and then the boat was struck by lightning. At that point they thought they lost the footage because of the electrical surge. Luckily, the footage survived. You can watch the incident below.


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