A squid too far


People are so cruel. I was busy all evening with this talk (which went well, I think), and lots of people flood my mailbox with news of the giant squid at the NHM.

You know I can look out my window and see everything covered in over a foot of snow. You know I’m about as far from any sea as you can get. And you know you can get me pining for abyssal pelagia with this kind of thing—you all must love to torment me. Could you at least send tickets to London with this kind of news?

Oh, well. It is a thing of beauty at any rate, and I will just have to worship it from afar.


  1. theo says

    I see that Damien Hirst is the hookup for your formalin-preserved large marine animal museum case needs.

    It’s nice to see that his crap art is good for something!

  2. says

    Wow, I want one!

    Incidentally, did anyone else watch the video snippet on the BBC site and keep expecting the squid to come alive and lunge for the scientists, Independence Day style? Or is that just me…

  3. Mnemosyne says

    I know how you feel — I was in the SAME STATE as the aquarium that housed a real, live Great White shark but was never able to scrape up the money (and time) to drive up to Monterey and see her.

    And now she’s been released back into the wild and I will never get to see her. I am very sad all over again.

  4. D. Sidhe says

    Ditto, Mnemosyne and PZ. I continue to hold out for my partner to go on a Giant Squid Model vacation with me, but I don’t think it’s gonna happen. I might get to see the whale sharks at the new Georgia Aquarium, though.

  5. says

    What Mnemosyune doesn’t mention about that Great White at the Monterey Bay Aquarium — it was released after, erm, snacking on its tank-mates. (They tried to avoid that problem by feeding it a lot, but the shark got in touch with its inner fat-ass and kept going.)

  6. Anna says

    “the largest ever spotted measured a vast 18.5m and was found in 1880 off Island Bay in New Zealand.”

    Unless they’ve mistaken Island Bay for the Bay of Islands…

    Giant Squid are possibly out swimming near where I walk!!!


  7. Mnemosyne says

    What Mnemosyne doesn’t mention about that Great White at the Monterey Bay Aquarium — it was released after, erm, snacking on its tank-mates. (They tried to avoid that problem by feeding it a lot, but the shark got in touch with its inner fat-ass and kept going.)

    Actually, they think it was done because of territorial instincts, not hunger, because it was other species of shark that were mysteriously disappearing during the night and not other kinds of fish.

    I miss that shark, and I never got to see her. Sharks are cool.

    And so are their close relatives, the manta rays:


  8. Mnemosyne says

    D’oh! Forgot the itals tag.

    Obviously, the first graf is Dr. Free-Ride — the rest is me. Especially the manta rays.

  9. says

    I second the manta rays. (My sprogs, however, are fonder of the bat rays in the petting tank.)

    I, too, heard that it was actually territorial snacking. Nonetheless, they were (if I recall correctly) feeding the shark extra just to be careful.

  10. D. Sidhe says

    They recently aired an episode of Nature called Oceans of Glass: Behind the Scenes at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. They discussed the great white, but other things too. You can buy a copy on DVD at pbs.org. But it was this season, so they’ll undoubtedly show it again in the next few months.
    Bat rays are adorable.

  11. says

    Am I correct in thinking that there still exists no image material of a live giant squid? Some time ago a small movie was published, but to me it looked like a close-up of an octopus (eye shape).

  12. says

    PZ, you should be pleased that every time your loyal readers see a squid, they think of you.

    I’ll take some photos for you next time I’m in London…

  13. Alexander Whiteside says

    Oh, wow. I’m going to make a point of visiting the museum while I’m down here now.

  14. says

    They’ve already published the reports in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The poor thing lost an arm on the line- so its definitely an Architeuthis. Its the first record of an adult being seen alive, but they found some rather cute babies a few years ago.

  15. CCP says

    “I was busy all evening with this talk (which went well, I think)”
    Any chance you’ll post your PowerPoints?

    and the squid? Nice bauplan.

  16. ajay says

    “I was fortunate enough last Sunday to be able to see the Giant Squid encased in a block of ice on display at the Melbourne Aquarium.”

    A giant squid encased in ice? Don’t thaw it out, Dr Pabodie! In God’s name, don’t thaw it out! That is not dead which can eternal –

    …Oh, damn. Too late.

    Oh, well. Create New File. Start typing: “I am forced into speech because men of science have refused to follow my advice without knowing why. It is altogether against my will that I tell my reasons for opposing this contemplated invasion of the Antarctic…”

  17. G. Tingey says

    Just to make you all jealous …..

    The NHM is FREE – entry.

    And I’ve been there lots of times.
    Since I’ve got free travel in London, now, I’ll just pop along for a really good look.

  18. Steff Z says

    Days ago, Alexander “Benjamins” Hamilton asked about the Colossal Squid.

    That would be Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni.

    A good place for more info is the Giant Squid and Colossal Squid Fact Sheet, at TONMO. (Bonus: it also discusses the Giant Warty Squid.) Dr. Steve O’Shea loves cephalopods possibly even more than our dear Dr. Myers.

    TONMO is a good place to keep exploring, too, if you want to know more about our cephalopod overlords.


  19. Steff Z says

    In other news:

    For Volunteer Training at the Seattle Aquarium, last Tuesday night’s class was SAFETY. One of the important bits of saftey information, besides where all the fire extinguishers are, was

    “Do not touch the red octopuses.”

    Not only are the little guys (Octopus rubescens) much more venomous than the Giant Pacific O’s.
    No. They also hate being touched, much more than the GPOs do.
    The conclusion from those two premises is, don’t touch the red octopuses.

    On the subject of GPOs: the two big ones on display mated, on Valentine’s Day (14 Feb) when the humans un-separated their tanks.

    Post-breeding, Lancelot (the male) by now is not looking so hot. Gray and crunched up small and very inactive.

    Mikala, the momma-to-be, has some obvious skin lesions (including a big one on the top/end of her mantle, where she bonks into rocks when she jets around). But she has good color (when she feels like being red), and is pretty active. Extremely active. All over the tank. Crawling on the plexi and jetting around.
    No eggs laid yet, as of last Tuesday night (28 Feb). I’ll keep looking.

  20. says

    Steff: Thanks. This in particular blew my mind:

    Rodhouse & Clarke (1985) consider M. hamiltoni to be a major prey item of sperm whales in the Southern Ocean. Beaks comprise 14 % of the numbers found in sperm whale stomachs from the Antarctic and, because of the large size of the species, this represents an estimated 77 % of the biomass consumed.

    And I’d never even heard of it.