77. The Biggest Squid Ever Captured

By Stephen OrnesJan 14, 2008 6:00 AM


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Some so-called fish stories turn out to be the real thing. In February, New Zealand fishermen plying the waters of the Ross Sea near Antarctica hauled up a real live sea monster in the very act of devouring an Antarctic toothfish.

The creature was a colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni)—yes, bigger than a merely giant squid: It weighed in at nearly half a ton and measured an estimated 33 feet. “This is the largest squid ever seen,” says Steve O’Shea, a marine biologist at the Auckland University of Technology. “But there’s no way we’ve got the maximum specimen.”

Remains in the stomach of a sperm whale caught in 1925 were the first evidence of colossal squid, which are believed to inhabit the deep, freezing-cold waters around Antarctica. Sperm whales sometimes bear deep scars that may be the result of violent tussles with the razor-sharp hook rings of the squids’ tentacles.

When they more closely examine this recent catch, O’Shea says, they will be able to determine its sex and age, which should provide a better idea of how large the elusive squid can grow. O’Shea says he’s excited by the squid carcass but would rather observe one in the wild: “I want to see it alive more than anything.”

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