Courtesy Fritz Geller-GrimmAnd if you were bad? What do you become then? A hagfish. And if you were really bad? You become a tufted titmouse, nature’s pervert. Do you know what a titmouse thinks about all day? It thinks about ways to incorporate animal abuse* into really dirty jokes.
Ah, but if you were good, if you were really good, then when you die you become a colossal squid, nature’s video arcade, nature’s He-man, nature’s candy. Normally I detest mollusks—how can you trust something so different? I wouldn’t make friends with an annelid, why should I treat mollusks any differently?—but the colossal squid, and its gracile cousin, the giant squid… they’re something special. Huge, big-brained, terrifying sperm whale food, just hiding out in the deep. When angels see giant squid, they get jealous—check it out, it’s in the bible.
You may recall that in February of last year the first ever intact colossal squid was captured by a fishing boat, and then flash frozen for future study. If you don’t recall, let technology do it for you. Well, the time has come for the frosty squid to get its once- and twice-overs.
Initial examination determined that the squid was an adult, and, at about a thousand pounds, the largest cephalopod ever documented. Shorter but much heavier than the giant squid, the specimen was only 4.2 meters (about 15 feet) long, although it’s believed that the creature’s two longest tentacles probably “shortened and shrank” after it died (the squid was eating a toothfish when the fishermen snagged it, and was still slightly alive when they finally got it on board). Before the tentacles shrank, the squid could have been several meters longer.
Marine biologists have determined from the recent study of the body, however, that the beast was far from being fully grown; judging by the development of its beak (squids have beaks! Check this out!) the scientists figured that the squid could have grown five or six hundred pounds beyond its already impressive weight.
The scientists also observed that the squid’s eyes, when alive, probably measured about a foot across. The eyes of colossal squid are the largest of any known living creature (I think some extinct ichthyosaurs came close, though). Often living a mile or more beneath the surface of the ocean, squid need huge eyes to see in the low light.
To help grip their prey, the suckers on giant squid’s tentacles are lined with tiny teeth. The colossal squid has something similar, and slightly more awesome: the biologists found hundreds of sharp, swiveling hooks on the suckers at the ends of the colossal squid’s tentacles. Sperm whales, which feed on giant and colossal squid, are often covered with slashes and circular scars from the tentacles of struggling squid.
Interestingly enough, the team of biologists admitted to eating part of another colossal squid that was under examination. This I understand—who wouldn’t want to take some of the strength of a colossal squid for their own. The meal was described as being “very much like sashimi” and “nice.” One scientist also said that “it left a real taste in your mouth and stayed there for quite a while,” which doesn’t necessarily sound “nice.”
I’m always looking for reasons to talk about colossal and giant squid, so if you’re into that keep your eyes peeled at Science Buzz. Until then, though, be good. Otherwise you might end up as a sneaky hagfish, filthy little titmouse.
*Thanks to Thor for the link.