2014 Colossal squid Q&A


Staff member
Moderator (Staff)
Nov 19, 2002
Hi all, this thread is to answer ongoing community and public questions arising from the recent colossal squid livestream (#squidwatch) in September, 2014. Please feel free to ask your questions here about the squid, the event, the research, whatever, and we'll do our best to answer!

- The squid team (Kat/Tintenfisch, Aaron/GPO87, Heather, Jesse & Tyler)

Awesome! So - you said it was the best preserved specimen you had ever seen. I'm curious, what is its fate now? All back to the freezer? I know a lot of cutting was already done... What would prompt another thawing?

Tony, I'll put it on our wish list of projects :sink:

The specimen is now fixing in formalin to stop it from decomposing. After it's stable, it will be put into a glycol solution that keeps Te Papa's options open--they could put it on display, or keep it as a permanent part of the collections, accessible to other visiting researchers. Before we added the fixative, though, we took a lot of samples for chemical analysis (stable isotopes, molecular work, bioaccumulation) which we'll analyze back in the lab and send to colleagues in a few different places for collaborative work. We also took out the eye for closer examination, and the statoliths, and a few other things. So, plenty of work to do now, while the beastie rests in its inky soup!
@gibbogirl We have so little experience on maintaining deep-sea squid in captivity, that we could only ever speculate on what methods would keep one alive, especially a squid of that size. However, I would be worried that trying to "capture" a live colossal would end up doing too much harm to the animal, and I would not want to harm such an amazing creature. Being able to film one in the wild would be pretty amazing though! Something unobtrusive :)
@A. Cuttlefish Well, the mantle of this one was about 2 meters (if I recall correctly) and the beak in it was VERY large... but there have been some beaks found that were a bit bigger... so they may get slightly bigger than the one examined(?) Really, we won't know until we have a large enough sample size to understand their growth. The few whole specimens that have been examined are not enough to accurately predict the size of these squid.
The beak on this one had a lower rostral length (LRL, standard measure of the beak's "cutting" edge) of about 42mm. It weighed about 350kg and was about 4.3m in total. The largest known LRLs for this species (from whale stomachs) are about 48mm, so we currently predict maximum size for M. hamiltoni as 400-500kg weight, 5-6m total length.

Speaking of size, are the beaks found in whales usually toward the large end of the scale or do they vary widely? The discussion and the large size of this one had me wondering if they become food or easily brought (relatively speaking) to the surface at the end of their lives.
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D, the beaks found in sperm whale stomachs vary, but are often large, and we believe sperm whales to be capable of catching the largest Mesos out there, which is why we currently estimate maximum size based on the largest beaks recovered from stomachs.

AC, perhaps you are thinking of the giant squid, Architeuthis dux? Total length for that species is thought to top out around 13m but most of it is arms and tentacles and the whole animal probably maxes out around 300kg. We used to think that the colossal (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) might reach about 10m including tentacles, but I don't think that's true anymore.
Hmm, I suppose that could be a factor, although they eat a fair amount of smaller, agile squids from other families as well. I would think the big squid would be good prey because they'd be the best return on hunting energy investment.

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