Friday Cephalopod: GIANT SQUID, of course!

You’ve probably already heard the news: video of a living giant squid in its natural environment has been captured for the very first time.


The bad news: all we’ve got right now is teasing little snippets of the video. It’s a slightly disturbing use of science in that it’s getting sensationalized for commercial purposes: it’s going to be shown on the Discovery channel on 27 January at 8pm — a very strange outlet for a scientific discovery.

The good news: Steve O’Shea, the cephalopod expert, has seen it and offered his opinion.

I can assure you that you will not be disappointed when you watch the show. In press release and title they demonize the animal again, and there has been an outcry from those involved at their doing so (but I cannot and will not get drawn into the ‘behind the scenes’ politics of all of this), but when you see this animal, alive, full-grown, beautiful, well, demon it is not. It is the most exquisite thing you will see, and it is no fleeting glimpse either – you see a LOT for a LONG time, in full colour, full HD, complete focus.

I have probably said more than I should have; I am awaiting confirmation that we can talk about it, because this announcement caught us off-guard (we had no forewarning that it would be announced today).

27 January is a day you want to mark in your calendars!

OK, now that tantalizes me. I’ll alert you all on the 27th again, and you can pretty much guarantee I’ll be glued to the TV that night.


  1. gussnarp says

    I’m still not getting cable.

    And the Discovery channel are still just a bunch of sensationalist hacks who occasionally produce a decent show, not a group of people dedicated to quality scientific and educational programming. A pox on them, and on whoever decided that they should get to control this footage.

  2. ChasCPeterson says

    a very strange outlet for a scientific discovery.

    It’s the first video of an animal that’s long been known to exist. Multiple specimens have been studied minutely. Unless it reveals some unpredictable behavior, it’s hard for me to see how this is scientific or a discovery. I get the impression that the questions being asked were not so much ‘how does the species behave in its natural habitat?’ and more ‘how can we get footage of a squid to sell?’.
    Well, nevertheless I’ll damn sure be watching to find out.

  3. says

    Yes: if there were some substantial science to show, it would be best done with a paper. This is going to be flash-in-the-pan, oooh-aaaah stuff which will further confuse people about what science actually is.

    But I still want to see the video.

  4. Crip Dyke, MQ, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I remember watching the last Discovery show on the “search for the Giant Squid”. Of course, as we know now, there was no footage. I’m not upset at the display of “failure” – that’s what science is much of the time, a lot of repetition and failure – but they went out of their way to tease the audience in a way that made it seem like the only reason to watch was to see the footage we have only captured now. It really devalued the actual scientific process and what was accomplished in creating a procedure for systematically investigating the possibility of Giant Squid in region X or Y. That show was more than 15 years ago. I watched it with a good friend (who is willing to have a TV). Coincidentally, I’ll be at that friend’s house that very weekend – a place I get to about once a year now that we live so far apart. I was planning on leaving earlier in the day (**much** earlier – I have a 10 hour trip home and responsibilities on Monday), but now I’m thinking of trying to get out of my Monday stuff to watch this show with him. It will feel like closure after that ridiculous earlier program, lo these many years ago.

  5. Rip Steakface says

    I hate Discovery these days. Nothing but crap in the vein of Deadliest Catch. Not an ounce of fun anymore – Mythbusters was a great, fun, if occasionally not-very-scientific show that still respected science, even if most of theirs was just blowing shit up. For every Mythbusters or somewhat interesting, non-sensational/pseudoscientific special, they have 10 Amish Mafias. What happened to “the world is awesome?”

    Pox on History, too. Nothing but Ancient Aliens and pawn shop shows these days. When the most history-related show on the channel is fucking Pawn Stars, what the hell are you going to do? I haven’t seen such cases of network decay since MTV.

    Still, I always thought the giant squid was totally awesome, and I’m gonna have to watch the video of the real living thing.

  6. gregpeterson says

    I see the aquarium in the Mall of America (Sea Life Minnesota) is opening a new cephalopod exhibit this spring, including octopus, cuttlefish and nautilus. I am excited to see them, though I suspect they will all be normal sized.

  7. kevinalexander says

    When they have a video of a giant squid eating the pawn shop guys, I’ll pay to watch.

  8. Holms says

    If they happen to show Giant Squid mating, how long will it take PZM to resurface? He’ll be gone for days =\

  9. Amphiox says

    I’m wondering if this is the same research team featured on the last Discovery special “Searching for the Giant Squid”.

    If so, it might be that they have some pre-established relationship with Discovery Channel. Perhaps Discovery Channel is providing some of their expedition/research funding. And the rights to air the footage commercially is a clause/condition of that financial support?

    (This in and of itself raises some questions, all of its own, of course….)

  10. clem says

    Nice to see you’re still checking in at TONMO, PZ. I think the first-ever field observations of an animal previously known only from carcasses, a few still-photos (of a hooked, soon-to-be-amputee squid) and video shot of a specimen on its way to being dead most certainly qualify as “substantial science.” Much more was learned, and more questions raised, about Architeuthis than the Discovery presentation will do justice to; given the channel’s history on the subject and present sensationalistic excesses, that’s probably a given, and Kubodera and O’Shea are well aware that Discovery sponsorship entails Faustian bargaining. Happily, NHK (Japan Broadcasting Company) also contributed funding; their presentation will air on January 13th, ahead of Discovery’s air-date, and will almost certainly be the superior program. It should also be noted that the expedition wouldn’t have happened were it not for the private individual who provided the surface ship and support. No, it wasn’t James Cameron.

    Again, this expedition did produce “substantial” scientific pay-offs, but don’t expect Discovery to present them well, if at all. And, don’t be surprised if Kubodera and O’Shea et al hold back a few things for later publication and follow-up exploration. As for how I know all this, well, teuth-geekdom has its benefits.