Posted by: mattcolvin | July 13, 2013

Release the Kraken!


This has nothing to do with the usual topics of this blog (Biblical studies), but I have always been fascinated by the giant squid, Architeuthis dux. 2013 has been a good year for news about this creature.

First, here’s a post by a photographer who took photos of sperm whales munching on a giant squid, and retrieved an arm that had floated away from the dining leviathans.

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Second, and even more impressive, is the footage from an expedition undertaken by two of the foremost squid experts in the world, Steve O’Shea and Tsunemi Kubodera, along with an expert in bioluminescence and deep sea animal observation, Edith Widder. It seems that Widder had the bright idea of rigging a device to emit the same light as a panicking jellyfish, which attracted the squid to attack the nearby submersible — the theory is that jellyfish emit “burglar alarm” bioluminescence as a last-gasp effort to attract some larger predator to scare off whatever is eating them. The architeuthis arrived and duly tried to eat the sub.

It is truly amazing how it comes into the picture with all its arms clasped tight, then unbundled them to “swarm” it’s prey. We also get a good shot of what must be the last thing many creatures see: the encircling arms and buccal mass around the squid’s beak.

Finally, Dr. Kubodera baited a line with the carcass of another, smaller squid, and was astonished when a giant squid came to munch on it and stayed for over 20 minutes. The squid was a metallic iridescent color, which was suprising, since they generally appear deathly white or red when dying in shallow or surface waters.

Really amazing footage. This was a small specimen, but it’s still an amazing animal. That eye, so often misrepresented without surrounding tissue, looks even more “intelligent” and alien than it ever did in the books about whales I read as a kid. Chthulhu’s squinting at you!

Now that they know how to do it, I hope they will try to get similar footage of the even more fearsome Mesonychoteuthis, a.k.a. “Colossal Squid”, which is not only twice as heavy, but also equipped with swiveling hooks in the center of each of its suction cups. Then again, maybe it isn’t such a great idea to be behind a glass orb a half a mile beneath the sea with one of those monsters just outside…

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(Dr. Steve O’Shea displays the hooks on an arm from the Colossal Squid.)


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