Mystery squid 3 (?Megalocranchia)

Steve O'Shea

TONMO Supporter
Staff member
Nov 19, 2002
Can anyone tell me what we are looking at here (further stomach contents from blue shark off northeastern New Zealand). From the same area we have now recorded Architeuthis and Taningia from the sharks stomachs.

It is rather odd, rather interesting and rather submature (judging on the extent of darkening of the beaks wings (Fig 2)). It gets a fair bit larger than this!

The detached arm (Fig 3) has grossly enlarged suckers. Arms 1, 2 and 4, and the tentacle stump on the animal's right hand side are attached to the remains of the head; each arm has moderately enlarged suckers along the mid-portion, but nothing quite so remarkable as that on the detached arm; the tentacle stump is devoid of systematic characters. The only arm that is incomplete is the 3rd right; those on the left hand side are detached/missing. I believe this arm to be that of either the third left or right of this specimen, so the suckers are enlarged on each arm, but demonstrably so on the third arms. The specimen is in pretty poor shape, and there are no traces of either hooks or sucker rings (these have digested away).

It is probably a species of Megalocranchia, but it is larger than anything with which I am familiar from local waters (adults are extremely rare, probably attaining mantle lengths of ~ 0.9 metres); it is a cranchiid squid, like the colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni). I need to check beak morphology in more intact, smaller specimens to be sure of the identification, but perhaps someone has some idea already and would like to comment.



It's hard to say Joel; they're certainly big squid! The National Museum (Wellington, New Zealand) have quite a few juvenile Megalocranchia specimens (to ML ~ 30cm), but identification of this particular specimen to species really will have to wait on a review of the genus, of the NZ specimens (to determine how many species we have), and on the collection of more intact, submature- to mature specimens from around New Zealand waters (and particularly from the area from which this particular specimen was eaten by the shark). There appear to be three described and one undescribed species.

It is quite incredible that large squid like this are still being recorded as 'new to New Zealand', or for the first time being collected at this large size (and this specimen was obviously still quite immature). It is even more incredible that large squid like this are so poorly known world-wide.

A link to the TOL large specimen is below. You can see that there is VERY little known of these animals (usually TOL entries have a fantastic amount of information; Dick Young, Mike Vecchione and a host of other teuthologists have done a fantastic job compiling the available information; Nancy Voss has done a truly fantastic job revising the systematics of the cranchiid squid in general, but there is still so much to do). There's a fantastic thesis there for anyone wanting to do systematics on charismatic megafaunal squid (Cranchiidae), and there is certainly a lot of material being collected these days that was never previously available - including adult specimens!

Any takers for a thesis? See below:


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