Fishing for Architeuthis, the giant squid


Lots of people have been emailing me with the news about this filmed sequence showing a giant squid snagged on a deep line. Did you know that the paper is freely available online (pdf)? It’s very cool. The researchers were jigging for squid with a 1km long line, snagged one by a tentacle, and then watched for the next four hours as it struggled to get free.

The squid’s initial
attack was captured on camera (figure 3a) and shows the
two long tentacles characteristic of giant squid wrapped in
a ball around the bait. The giant squid became snagged
on the squid jig by the club of one of these long tentacles.
More than 550 digital images were taken over the
subsequent 4 h which record the squid’s repeated
attempts to detach from the jig. For the first 20 min,
the squid disappeared from view as it actively swam away
from the camera system. For the next 80 min, the squid
repeatedly approached the line, spreading its arms widely
(e.g. figure 3b) or enveloping the line. During this period
the entire camera system was drawn upwards by the squid
from 900 m to a depth of 600 m (figure 3g). Over the
subsequent 3 h, the squid and system slowly returned to
the planned deployment depth of 1000 m. For the last
hour, the line was out of the camera frame, suggesting
that the squid was attempting to break free by swimming
(finning and/or jetting) away from the system. Four hours
and 13 min after becoming snagged, the attached tentacle
broke, as seen by sudden slackness in the line (figure 3c
versus d ). The severed tentacle remained attached to the
line and was retrieved with the camera system (figure 3e).
The recovered section of tentacle was still functioning,
with the large suckers of the tentacle club repeatedly
gripping the boat deck and any offered fingers (figure 3f ).

I’ve put the figure they describe below the fold. It’s a thing of beauty: an 8meter (26 foot) beast attacking the bait. Remind me not to go swimming below 500m, OK?

Kubodera T, Mori K (2005) First-ever observations of a live giant
squid in the wild. Proc. R. Soc. B doi:10.1098/rspb.2005.3158.


  1. Unstable Isotope says

    Those pictures are pretty darn cool. I’m fascinated with giant squid. Not P.Z. Myers fascinated, but fascinated nonetheless.

  2. Owlmirror says

    The link to the PDF given above no longer works.

    However, I went to the main journal site, here,

    and pasted the name of the main article author (Kubodera) into the search box, and the article came right up. As I type this, the HTML versions of the article is freely available to access, and the PDF can be downloaded.

    I am reluctant to try pasting a permalink to the article. It looks like the web server now generates some sort of coded hash or random string that expires after a certain amount of time.

  3. Sunny says

    I just saw the Discovery Channel special on that expeidtion. That was unbelievably cool. I hope they will be able to have the squid on video instead of just still photos next time.

  4. Marin says

    “I, for one, _welcome_ our Giant Squid Overlords.”

    Now I have a mental image of someone standing in an airport with a large cardboard sign that says, “Welcome, Giant Squid Overloards”

  5. Karey says

    Am I the only one who thinks it pretty sad that the squid lost its tentacle? It seems from the graphics of how the thing hunts, that it needs both tentacles in order to catch anything to feed. And the poor thing struggling for 4 hours, must have thought it was going to die or be eaten that whole time.

  6. ChetBob says

    It was kind of heart-rending for me too reading it. I hadn’t understood either that it only has two hunting tentacles. I did think about what they could do once they hooked it. Do they die if they are brought up from so far down where they live under high pressure?

    What are they learning from keeping the squid hooked until it breaks free. Just watching it? What is the objective of the “jigging?”

  7. Kevin says

    ChetBob, what they were doing is sinking bait and a camera to a certain depth. The camera was set to take pictures every 30 seconds, for 6 hours. Then they would haul the bait and camera back up. There was no live feed, they had to download the pictures to a computer to see what they caught on film. They did this many, many times, I think over 2 years the documentary said – and they only caught the Giant Squid on film this once.

    They knew something was down there, attacking the bait, because the floating buoy was pulled down for a while. But they didn’t know what had it – many times before they’d snagged smaller squids, sharks, huge mackerals…but not the Giant. They weren’t purposely torturing the Giant Squid. For all they knew, it was yet again some other creature attacking the bait.

  8. says

    I was about to write that the ammonia would make the flesh taste pretty pisspoor, ajay beat me to it. Very interesting read. I missed the documentary, but know that it will be replayed. Squid hunting is notoriously foul work, with the jig basicly being a hooked lure that the squid can’t get loose from. At least it wasn’t attacked by another Architeuthis, as has been observed with Humboldt squid. There has been some discussion about cannibalism in giant squids.