10 Unbelievable Giant Squid Facts
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Deep beneath the ocean's surface swims a mysterious monster of the deep: the giant squid ( Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni ). There's still a lot we don't know about this curious giant, but it continues to capture our imaginations like no other sea creature on Earth, surprising us with its many secrets. Let's see what we know about this enigmatic cephalopod with 10 incredible giant squid facts!
1. The giant squid is the heaviest invertebrate in the world
You might have guessed its name, but this giant squid is really big —in fact, it's the heaviest invertebrate on Earth! These giant sea creatures can grow up to 33 feet long and weigh up to 1,500 pounds. However, many scientists believe that there are giant squid bigger than this in the cracks in the depths of the ocean! While they're shorter than the aptly named giant squid (the longest recorded at 43 feet), giant squid are definitely heavier (giant squid typically weigh around 600 pounds).
2. They are not at the top of the food chain
Despite their size, giant squid have many predators in the sea—notably the sperm whale ( Physeter macrocephalus ). Giant squid are deep-sea dwellers, but sperm whales can stay underwater for over an hour. Sperm whales also frequently dive to more than 6,500 feet in search of food. No one has ever seen an encounter between these two large animals, but the sperm whale's scar often matches the sharp, jagged suckers of the giant squid's tentacles. Additionally, giant squid have indigestible beaks, many of which have been found in the stomachs of sperm whales. Scientists speculate that 77% of the sperm whale's diet comes from giant squid!
3. They have the largest eyes on Earth
Giant squids aren't just giant animals. They also have giant eyeballs. In fact, their eyes are the largest of any other animal on Earth – including whales! The giant squid's eyes are more than 12 inches in diameter — bigger than a standard NBA basketball. It's unlikely, however, that giant squid need these huge eyes to help them find prey. Instead, scientists speculate that the gigantic squid evolved such large eyes to help it spot larger predators like sperm whales, especially in the dark deep sea.
4. Giant squid with spiked tentacles
The Cranchiidae family consists of about 20 species, including the giant squid. Not only is the giant squid the largest species, but it's also the only one with sharp hooks on its tentacles! that's right! If you thought the mammoth squid was scary, just imagine its arms with razor-sharp claws! The giant squid has eight arms and two long tentacles, each with different types of hooks.
The sharp hooks on the giant squid's tentacles can rotate 360 to 720 degrees. Their arm hooks, on the other hand, have three points that help the squid burrow and grip food better. Scientists believe these deep-sea creatures are ambush predators that use their many sharp hooks to grab unsuspecting prey that get too close.
5. Giant squids also have toothy suction cups on their arms
Like other squid species, giant squids have two tentacles and eight arms. In addition to its many sharp hooks, the giant squid has hundreds of suction cups on each limb. These sucker-like structures have tough, sharp "teeth" that help the squid grab and hold prey and other objects. The line can get caught in the suction cups, and the squid sometimes even cut the line. Fishermen also notice circular marks and scars on many of the toothfish they catch. These scares are caused by the tusk suckers of a giant squid.
6. Giant squids have strong beaks like parrots
In addition to their size, hooks, and toothed suction cups, giant squid have another weapon in their arsenal: the sharp, parrot-like beaks they use to tear apart their prey. However, unlike a parrot's beak, the lower half of the giant squid's beak actually overlaps the upper half. The squid's beak is made of a hard chitinous material surrounded by strong muscles. This enables the squid to tear its prey into pieces before swallowing it whole.
7. We haven't seen many giant squid yet
The first recorded and identified giant squid was discovered in 1925. More precisely, however, only two squid arms were actually recovered from the sperm whale's stomach at the time. In late 1981, a Russian trawler caught one of the first giant squid specimens, albeit dead. This squid is about 13 feet long. Then, in 2005, humans finally saw a live giant squid! The squid was accidentally caught more than 5,000 feet underwater while trying to steal a toothfish off a fishing line. It's too big to take all the way on board. However, a scientist on board estimated that the giant squid was about 16 feet long and weighed 330 to 440 pounds.
The largest giant squid we've ever seen was caught off Antarctica in the Ross Sea in 2007. A female squid is brought to the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum in New Zealand. Researchers found it was 22 feet long and weighed 1,091 pounds. However, since the squid had been frozen for several months before it was measured, it may have turned out to be longer and shrunken. Its beak is surprisingly smaller than those previously found in sperm whale stomachs. This suggests that giant squid can grow much larger than this one.
8. Giant squid live in the depths of the ocean
The Southern Ocean around Antarctica is home to giant squid. So far, we know that the range of these giant sea creatures stretches from Antarctica to southern South America and South Africa, as well as the southern tip of New Zealand. Although they live in the deep sea, the level at which they are found depends on their age. For example, juvenile squid typically spend their time closer to the surface (from 0 feet to 1,640 feet deep). Juvenile squid live in deeper waters (1,600 to 6,600 feet deep). Adult giant squid typically live in the mesopelagic zone (650 to 3,300 ft deep) and deep pelagic zone (3,300 to 9,800 ft deep).
Due to their unique colors, giant squid are very good at hiding from other creatures in the deep sea: they are red and pink! When sunlight passes through water, red wavelengths are absorbed and become less visible. This means that pink or red animals, such as giant squid, can be nearly invisible on the ocean floor.
9. They don’t eat much
While we know very little about these deep-sea giants, scientists think they may use bioluminescence to hunt and ambush prey such as Patagonian toothfish and hairjaws. Antarctic toothfish may also be prey, many of which bear scars from giant squid. Giant squids also occasionally eat each other. A female squid has been found with squid remains in her stomach in Antarctica.
No matter what the deep-sea giant prefers, its food metabolism can be very slow. Scientists estimate that a giant squid only needs about 1.1 ounces of food per day to keep it alive! Living in such deep waters, the giant squid may move sluggishly and conserve energy as much as possible.
10. Female cuttlefish lay lots of very small eggs
Adult female giant squid often venture far from their usual dark depths. Scientists think they may lay their eggs in shallower water. Additionally, the giant squid possesses over 4.2 million oocytes, or eggs, one of the highest fertility rates ever recorded for a coldwater squid! Their eggs are also very small. They range in size from 0.1 x 0.08 inches to as small as a 0.05 x 0.02 inch egg! Scientists believe that female giant squid lay eggs during the summer. During this time, the temperature near the surface will be cooler, between 30.4 and 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
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about the author
For 10 years I have been a professional writer with a special focus on nature, wildlife, ethnozoology and the human-animal relationship. My areas of interest include human-animal studies, ecocriticism, wildlife conservation, pets, and animal behavior. I graduated from Brigham Young University with a master's degree in comparative studies, focusing on the relationship between humans and the natural world. In my spare time, I enjoy exploring the outdoors, watching movies, reading, creating art, and taking care of my pets. Nothing makes me happier than spending a day in the company of animals.
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