Guest writer Kat Bolstad tells us about the recent photographing of a giant squid…
You’ve probably been catching snitches of the buzz about the first live giant squid ever to be caught on film… and since Steve O’Shea and I have been working on this indirectly over the past few years, I thought you might like a quick rundown on what has happened.
For several years now, some Japanese colleagues of Steve’s – Drs Kubodera and Mori – have been sending down baited cameras in an attempt to film the giant squid. They chose the Ogasawara Islands off Japan based on its topography – a steep submarine canyon – and the fact that sperm whales are known to feed there. Finally, the filming – which was kept secret while the publication was in preparation has paid off! Last year they got about 550 photographs (the camera takes a still shot every 30 seconds) of a giant squid attacking the bait, snagging a tentacle on the hook, and then spending about four hours trying to disentangle itself from the line.
Unfortunately, the tentacle eventually broke, and came to the surface as the camera was reeled in. The squid, however, escaped, and may regrow the tentacle, as other squid have been known to do. The tentacle (whose suckers were still gripping when they brought it in) allowed the scientists to confirm the squid’s ID as Architeuthis dux, the famous ‘giant’ squid. The whole story – with varying degrees of accuracy – can be found in a number of online news stories (try Googling ‘giant squid’), but I recommend this one in National Geographic
The cephalopod (octopus, squid, etc) website that I help moderate has also been following the whole story and has a number of additional links, pictures, and comments by Steve (and me – I’m ‘Tintenfisch’).
If you want to read the scientific paper itself (only 4 pages) it’s available as an Adobe pdf
Steve has been fielding a huge number of phone calls from press wanting to know whether he’s disappointed that someone else has done it first, but this is only the first baby step in unveiling the mysteries of the giant squid – there is still no video footage, and it would be great to catch the squid on film in a situation where it’s not distressed and caught on a hook. Plus, no one else is trying to rear the babies yet, so the short answer is, no, he’s not disappointed – he’s very pleased that these guys, who have been working hard on this project on a small budget, have finally done what no one else has before. And he’s still committed to trying to raise baby giants in captivity!
It’s an exciting time for squid scientists!
Kat Bolstad is a PhD researcher (in Cephalopod Systematics) at Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand. She also works at Kelly Tarlton’s, the local aquarium in Auckland. Originally from Minnesota, she has spent some fairly recent years as a German teacher and college student at Wellesley (near Boston, MA). Her previous marine experience includes a semester at the Smithsonian NMNH studying isopods, three years at the New England Aquarium working on lobster and jellyfish husbandry, and a behavioral field study on Hector’s Dolphin in Akaroa, New Zealand.