Giants: Giant Squid (Architeuthis dux)

Maximum Length = 42 feet (13 metres)
Maximum Weight = 300 Kg (660 pounds)

A real-life "sea monster", the Giant Squid is the largest living invertebrate.  Yet no one has ever seen a healthy, living individual — so almost everything we know about this creature has come from examination of dead or dying specimens.  The Giant Squid possesses among the largest eyes of any animal — as much as 15 inches (38 centimetres) in diameter, or about the size of a large dinner plate.  Despite wildly exaggerated reports of huge sucker-marks left on the bodies of their chief predator, the Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus), Giant Squids have small suckers — each measuring about 1.5 inches (4 centimetres) across.  Unlike some large squids, the Giant Squid has no claws at the center of its sucker discs, but each is ringed with tiny, chitinous teeth that allow them to capture and securely hold their prey.  We don't know what Giant Squids eat (probably deep-sea fishes), how fast they grow (probably quite fast, reaching maturity within 5 years), or where they live (probably world-wide at depths of 1,000 feet [300 metres] or more).  We do, however, know a little about where Giant Squids die, as they have washed ashore or beached themselves in considerable numbers at certain locations, such as Newfoundland, Norway, and — especially — New Zealand, where, in recent years, more than 30 specimens have been caught in fishermen's nets deployed 2,000 to 5,000 feet (600 to 1,500 metres) below the surface.  It was recently discovered that Giant Squid males actually inject packets of sperm into the arms of females of the species, where they may be stored until needed for self-fertilization some unknown period later.

* size attained by the Giant squid has apparently be over-estimated; the length and mass given here are for a squid with unstretched tentacles. The Colossal Squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) has shorter tentacles than the Giant Squid, but has a larger mantle (up to 4 metres or 13 ft long) and is thus heavier (reaching a mass of 1 - 1.5 tonnes); it also has larger eyes and a larger beak than the Giant Squid. The largest eyes of any animal probably belonged to a giant ichthyosaur, Temnodon tosaurus, although the smaller ichthyosaur, Opthalmosaurus had proportionately larger eyes.

Thanks to vigilant site user, Markus Bühler, for providing many helpful corrections on this page.


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Text and illustrations © R. Aidan Martin
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