[News]: National Geographic covers Colossal Squid story


Staff member
Site Owner
May 30, 2000
National Geograhic has covered the Colossal Squid story, with quotes from Dr. Steve O'Shea and Kat Bolstad (both of whom are members of the TONMO.com Staff). There are also dissenting views from Paul Rodhouse and TONMO.com member Richard Ellis. ...(I'm such a name-dropper :roll:). Here is the link to the article:

"Colossal Squid" Revives Legends of Sea Monsters

Note the link to TONMO.com at the very bottom of the page...
:heee: :mrgreen: 8)
I'm afraid there are quite a few grievous errors in the article... surprising from National Geographic, but for posteriority, we'd like to clarify some things. All quotes are taken directly from the article.

"They say the species is the biggest and most fearsome squid known to science and could grow to 40 feet (12 meters) in length—longer than a whale."

Longer than a juvenile sperm whale. Adult sperm whales reach 18m, half again as long as either Mesonychoteuthis or Architeuthis (max ~13m).

"Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, which later became a Disney movie, featured an encounter between a colossal squid and a French naval vessel."

It was a giant squid, Architeuthis dux.

"Thought to be only the second intact example ever recovered, the massive cephalopod was armed with four huge beaks and rotating hooks along its tentacles and arms."

The second reported intact specimen.
ALL squid have TWO BEAKS, one upper and one lower.
The hooks on the tentacle clubs swivel; those on the arms do not.

"New Zealand squid expert Steve O'Shea, from Auckland University of Technology, has described the squid as 'a true monster.' He told the BBC: 'Giant squid is no longer the largest squid that's out there. We've got something that's even larger, and not just larger but an order of magnitude meaner.'
"Auckland University of Technology research associate Kat Bolstad, also talking to the BBC, added: 'This animal, armed as it is with the hooks and the beak that it has, not only is colossal in size but is going to be a phenomenal predator and something you are not going to want to meet in the water.'
"Other scientists dismiss such claims."

What claims? Mesonychoteuthis is, if not longer, more massive than Architeuthis at similar lengths.
Obviously humans are not a part of the colossal squid's diet. They wouldn't be a natural part of a Tyrannosaurus rex's diet either. That doesn't mean such an animal wouldn't kill and eat one given the chance. It might not - but I'd rather not find out.

"Richard Ellis... 'wrote The Search for the Giant Squid to try and dispel some of the crazy ideas that this cephalopod is in any way dangerous to humans, and the same holds true for Mesonychoteuthis.' "

This implies that we are perpetuating myths.
No deep-sea cephalopod can possibly be a direct danger to humans, in the sense of the public at large, because there is no way for accidental encounters to occur. People do not live in the deep sea. Cephalopods do not live on land. There is no common ground.
Since adult Architeuthis do not occur in surface waters, they cannot even be encountered by divers. Mesonychoteuthis is recorded solely from Antarctica, so the possibility of encounters is remote, as diving in the Antarctic is an infrequent occurrence. It would technically be possible for a diver there to encounter a colossal squid, as they do occasionally range to the surface. In the highly unlikely event that such encounter took place, I certainly wouldn't want to be the diver. In that sense, in the fantastically remote possibility that a diver, or fisherman accidentally, were in the water, I think is is safe to say that Mesonychoteuthis could be dangerous.

"Some of the earliest tales about huge, tentacled sea monsters date back to the 12th century when Norwegian seafarers described an awesome beast called a Kraken.
By the 18th century the Kraken still had a fearsome reputation. In The Natural History of Norway, the Bishop of Bergen likened it to a "floating island," adding, "It seems these are the creature's arms, and, it is said, if they were to lay hold of the largest man-of-war [a ship], they would pull it down to the bottom."

More myths we always mention in the context of their improbability.

"There is also an account of sailors being attacked by a giant squid after their ship sunk during the Second World War. At least one sailor was supposedly eaten. And even this year, French yachtsmen taking part in the appropriately named Jules Verne Trophy reported that a 26-foot-long (8-meter) squid clamped itself to their boat."

A giant squid cannot consume a human, at least in any short period of time. It is a physical impossibility. The esophagus of Architeuthis is a maximum of 1 cm in diameter and passes through the brain. Obviously larger objects, or sharp ones, cannot be swallowed. Also, refer to the pictures of the Architeuthis beak - this animal can cut through flesh, certainly, but not mammalian bone. And again, the adult giant squid does not occur live at the surface.
The French yachstmen who reported the giant squid have since admitted that it was a hoax.
... Continued... Sorry for the diatribe...

"Professor Paul Rodhouse, head of biological sciences at the British Antarctic Survey, says whalers also noted deep scars and circular marks around the heads of their quarry.
" 'It's certain these were caused by the suckers and hooks of big squid,' he said. 'The whales would suffer quite a lot of damage in subduing Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni.'
"However, Rodhouse is quick to scotch stories about such squid killing and even eating sperm whales."

As are we. Again, the esophagus of Mesonychoteuthis is similar to Architeuthis in dimensions. Its greatest diameter on our 5.4 m specimen was 1.5 cm. Not likely to be eating whales, or killing them.

"Richard Ellis also believes such stories have been blown out of proportion.
" 'This creature, like Architeuthis, is probably a deep-water dweller,' he said. 'What earthly—or oceanic—reason would a squid have for attacking a ship? I think both these squid are fish-eaters. The long tentacles of Architeuthis and the hooks of Mesonychoteuthis support this contention, and do not indicate any predilection to attack whales, people or ships.'

We are in complete agreement. The aspersion seems to be cast that 'such stories' are in fact our story. Mesonychoteuthis is probably primarily a deep-sea squid (ranging down to 2200 m) that occasionally ventures to the surface in pursuit of prey, as this specimen did. Fish is its only confirmed prey so far. Architeuthis is known to eat fish and other squid. Neither squid will attack whales, but it is probable that they will struggle, leaving scars, in the process of being eaten.
For reference on probable Mesonychoteuthis-inflicted scars, see the photos on Physiology & Biology > Tentarcticles.

"Rodhouse is more concerned about the colossal squid than the fate of humans who may encounter one. In particular, he is worried about the recent influx of fishing vessels into Antarctic waters that target Patagonian toothfish. He says the fish is a major prey species for colossal squid.
" 'The fish can grow to over 2 meters (6 feet) but it's being overfished in many parts of the southern ocean,' he said. 'Toothfish and these squid form part of a deep water ecosystem that we know virtually nothing about—yet were are already exploiting it with commercial fisheries.' "

Exactly. Exactly! Our main concern is conservation; if we do not raise public awareness of this and other species, there will be no pressure for fisheries regulation, and no pressure to ensure the ecosystem's present and future survival and well-being.

"At least the colossal squid isn't likely to join toothfish on the seafood menu. Calamari as big as car tires might sound an appetizing idea, but jumbo-sized squid usually contain high levels of ammonia and their meat is said to taste like floor cleaner."

Architeuthis is a very ammoniacal animal. Mesonychoteuthis does not appear to be (see the thread on Physiology & Biology on this topic).
And as an aside, just what does floor cleaner taste like? I've always wondered.
Wow, this is such a valuable and insightful response. Thanks to the both of you for taking the time to post.

This is a completely inane observation, and it is not necessarily directed at this particular article, but I'll say it anyway -- for some reason (I suppose "attention"), our global journalistic society is constantly pitting groups against one another. These days it almost seems as if the primary function of most news stories is not to report news, but rather to present certain aspects of a story in such a way that it invokes strong emotion (e.g. passionate support, or ire) in the reader, while purposefully omitting or opting not to spotlight other important, pertinent facts in the article.

When a story as big as this is released, with the global media picking up on it in such a significant way, provocation is inevitable... and it just strikes me as so interesting. I guess it's that as a people we've come to exploit the fact that sensationalism sells, education does not.

Here's to TONMO.com being the antithesis of that! :glass: (...or at least trying to be...)

BTW, if nothing else, I've learned that all squid have two beaks, whereas I would have thought "one beak" would equate to the set -- top and bottom.
Tintenfisch said:
Also, refer to the pictures of the Architeuthis beak - this animal can cut through flesh, certainly, but not mammalian bone.

i was going to ask a few days ago but forgot... do we know how powerful the colossal's beak is in respect to archi? i never considered mammal bones to be a possibility (only because i never got that far in my pondering), but what about the bones of larger fish?
Here's a pic of Kat while composing her response (above); cool, calm and collected (whereas I was frothing at the mouth screaming murder!).

That cactus in the lower left is deadly!! Meaner than Mesonychoteuthis even!!!

Just a wee note on beaks (in light of Tony's earlier post). All squid and octopus have a single set of beaks. These are located at the base of the arms, inside the arm (brachial) crown, otherwise hidden from view when looking at a live animal.

They are referred to as the upper beak (the dorsal) and lower beak (ventral); the lower beak overlaps the upper beak (actually the reverse of a parrot).

The following images are of Architeuthis beaks, with the musculature of the buccal bulb (often, incorrectly, referred to as the buccal mass) removed.




Trending content

Shop Amazon

Shop Amazon
Shop Amazon; support TONMO!
Shop Amazon
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon and affiliated sites.