Elusive giant squid captured on film for first time


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TOKYO — For hundreds of years, sailors and others have told of seeing huge squid alive and thrashing about the oceans. The giant squid now known scientifically as Architeuthis has been seen many times — but only dead as a doornail.

But now a team of Japanese researchers and a Discovery Channel crew have captured footage of the creature alive and kicking some 3000 feet below the waves. It's the first footage of the creature alive and in its normal habitat recorded anywhere in the world, and it's causing quite a stir.

"All of us were so amazed at what it looked like," Edie Widder, a marine biologist and crew member told the Los Angeles Times. "It looked carved out of metal. And it would change from being silver to gold. It was just breathtaking."

The footage is the result of some 100 dives and over 400 hours cramped in a tiny deep-sea diving vessel. Japanese Broadcaster NHK teamed up with the Discovery Channel in order to make the dives happen.

Facts about Architeuthis, or the giant squid
  • Females can reach a length of 43 feet and weigh nearly a ton.
  • They have eight arms and two extremely long tentacles, the longest of any cephalopod. These tentacles are lined with tiny razor-sharp teeth that allow it to attach to its prey.
  • Its only known predator is the sperm whale.
  • As many as eight species may exist.
  • They may not be the largest squid in the world. Several specimens of a so called colossal squid, Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, have been documented which are both longer and have a greater mass.

"It was shining and so beautiful," Tsunemi Kubodera, researcher for Japan's National Science Museum, told AFP. "I was so thrilled when I saw it firsthand, but I was confident we would because we rigorously researched the areas we might find it, based on past data."

Researchers used two methods to attract the quid: an enticing meal and an enticing light. The giant squid feeds on smaller squid, which they used as bait. But they also used a bioluminescent lure in order to attract the squid, which shies away from the bright lights normally shining from research vessels.

Giant squid are said to have very good vision, considering their normal habitat is so far under the water that little if any light reaches those depths. Its eyes are roughly the size of dinner plates.

Giant squid can reach the length of a school bus, though this particular specimen was only about 9 feet long because it was missing its two largest tentacles.

"I've seen a lot of giant squid specimens in my time, but mainly those hauled out of the ocean," Kubodera said. "This was the first time for me to see with my own eyes a giant squid swimming. "It was stunning, I couldn't have dreamt that it would be so beautiful. It was such a wonderful creature."

The footage will be officially aired Jan. 27 on a Discovery Channel special called "Monster Squid: The Giant is Real."

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David Self Newlin

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