Colossal Squid Dissected
Colossal squid are the world’s heaviest invertebrate, yet they are rarely seen. Many aspects of their biology remain a mystery to us.
Scientists from Auckland University of Technology and Otago University were excited to have the chance to examine Te Papa’s latest specimen – only the second intact colossal squid found, ever! But how and why do scientists study such a giant species?
‘I never dreamed that one day I would get to come face to face with a real colossal squid. These animals are the stuff of legend and it’s quite surreal to get to study one first-hand.’ Aaron Boyd Evans, cephalopod scientist
To study colossal squid, you have to get up close. There's always room for a scientist in the tank!
Although colossal squid are huge, there are still plenty of small parts to count.
Aaron Boyd Evans counts the arm suckers, which squid use to tightly grip their prey. Scientists were interested to find the number of arm suckers was not the same as on the colossal squid dissected in 2008. This suggests that arm suckers might not be uniform across all colossal squid.
Scientists extracted the huge parrot-like beak, and the muscle tissue surrounding it, for further examination at Auckland University of Technology and Otago University.
Researchers can use this beak to find out more about the colossal squid’s biology and life history, including the age of the animal.
The colossal squid holds the record for the world's biggest eye. At 37 centimetres across, the eyes from this specimen are the biggest animal eyes ever found!
Scientists from Auckland University of Technology are taking the eyes back to the lab to find out more about how they work, and how they evolved.
Measurements taken during the examination are just the start of the scientific knowledge that will be gained from this specimen.
Samples were taken for further analysis in labs across New Zealand. Muscle tissue and stomach contents will be examined to see what the colossal squid eats. Hooks and suckers will be studied to see what effect ocean acidification might have on deep-ocean-dwelling invertebrates. The specimen will be compared to other similar species, to learn more about how squid are related.
Museum specimens like the colossal squid are preserved for the information they hold. Like a book in the library, a specimen can be 'read' many times, with new information being discovered each time.
Who knows what this colossal squid might reveal to researchers in the future!