Colossal squid examination

The large colossal squid is still not completely thawed. We are running water over it and hope to be able to start teasing the tissues apart later this morning.

At present Dr Kubodera is examining the internal anatomy of the smaller colossal squid. Unlike the giant squid, the internal organs are suspended from the upper mantle in a position that is at right angles to the organs in the giant squid (the giant squid organs are lengthwise along the body).

The image above shows the gill (striped organ at center), with the orangish ovaries to the anterior. The long tubular purplish tissue Dr Kubodera is holding is the intestine. Below Dr Dan Nillson and Dr Eric Warrant examine what remains of the 15 cm diametre eye.

13 Responses

  1. huriyyah

    wow! i dont understand a thing you guys say..but this is soo intresting! all the best guys!!
    p.s i want to be a marine biologist and told me to check

  2. Dr. Scott Currie

    Thanks a lot for the J.Z. Young reference and info on the absence of “giant giant axons”, Mark! I’ve been wondering about this for a long time.

  3. Haseeb

    To whom this may concern;

    My name is Haseeb Randhawa and I am a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Zoology at the University of Otago in Dunedin. I work on different aspects of parasites of elasmobranchs, including: molecular systematics, host/parasite coevolution, and the elucidation of the lifecycle of tetraphyllidean cestodes. For the latter, I am working on creating a DNA library of adult cestodes infecting elasmobranchs. I have collected material from NZ, the northwest and southwest Atlantic Ocean, and the North Sea.

    One of the main prey items of sharks is squid. Hence, I have also been collecting squid from different localities, sequencing a nuclear marker from the cestode larvae recovered from the squid and trying to work out the transmission dynamics of these larvae through trophic interactions. Colossal squid carcasses may be eaten by some shark (Somniosidae perhaps). After watching a report on One News earlier this week, I wondered whether you could/would preserve the stomach and caecum of the colossal squid in 100% ethanol (or at least any larvae that can be recovered)? My only concern is whether this material has already been exposed to formalin.

  4. Jeff G.

    What are the round, clear ball-like things that you are holding next to the squid?

  5. gloria

    is it dead?

  6. Chris Paulin

    Sorry about the audio – we don’t have anybody wired up at present as we’re working on melting the ice

  7. Eljay

    Still having bad audio problems here and freezing of image.

  8. Mark (Monty) Montague

    Ah, found it:

    JZ Young, 1977 The Biology of Cephalopods Symposia of the Zoological Society of London #38:

    “Everyone wants to know whether giant squids have giant giant fibres. We have no material of the central nervous system but some years ago I was able to dissect the stellate ganglion of an animal washed up at Scarborough in 1933 and sent to the British Museum. The mantle length was 125 cm. The nerves of the mantle muscles are arranged in this genus differently from any other I have seen. Those in the front part of the mantle arise from a relatively small stellate ganglion, in the usual way. The hinder part of the mantle, perhaps more than half of the whole, is suspended from a distinct median nerve, running with the fin nerve and giving off a series of branches to the mantle.
    Each of the nerves arising from the ganglion contains one or two large fibres, ranging in diameter from about 80 micrometers in the more anterior ones to a maximum of 250 micrometers further back. The median nerve was further preserved but one fibre of about 250 micrometers could be seen. Two of the more posterior branches contained fibres of about 200 micrometers each. None of the nerves examined contained the exceptionally large fibres reported by Aldrich & Brown (1967). We may conclude that Architeuthis is not an especially fast-moving animal. This would agree with evidence that it is neutrally buoyant with a high concentration of ammonium ions in the mantle and arms (Denton, 1974).”

    Of course, this is Architeuthis only, but Nixon & Young’s more recent book suggest that this proved true on examination of more Architeuthis, and that the one Mesonychoteuthis examined did not have a large fiber either.

    But I’m waiting with great anticipation to see what the nervous systems of these new specimens have to tell us!

  9. Captain Moonbarker

    Hi everyone,

    I’m very much looking forward to your unraveling this piece of sailors’ yarn. I hope we’ll get to see the eyes! 🙂 I’ll be watching from Germany, and it’ll night here – 1 to 6 am – so tomorrow’s working day is going to be hard…

    Good luck to you all

  10. Mark (Monty) Montague

    As I mentioned in a comment to a previous post, Nixon & Young report the giant axon to be 300 micrometers in a (1.17 meter ML) Mesonychoteuthis, so it’s apparently smaller (in diameter) than loligo in both the giant and colossal squids… of course, these specimens may prove that the 1.17 meter one was an unusual case…

    I believe I read in a publication by JZ Young from the 70s that he thought that the lack of a “giant giant axon” was primarily because the large squids are limited by other size-related factors, so they can’t get the same very fast escape benefits from the giant axon that smaller squids do. I could be remembering the details wrong, though, that might have just been what I thought as I read that there is no “giant giant axon” in Architeuthis.

  11. Jean McKinnon

    Orientation of the organs is odd…… that true of all cranchids? or a unique feature of Meso?

  12. Nettles


    So how long do you think it will be before you find out whether it is a girl or a boy….?

    And how do they have babies anyway…?

    Happy Birthday Mark 🙂

  13. Dr. Scott Currie

    I would be very interested to know approximately how large the primary giant axon is in this collosal specimen(the largest diameter and most medial of the giant nerve fibers emergin from the stellate ganglion and innervating the mantle). Since this axon is already so large in small species like Loligo (0.5 – 1.0 mm diameter), one wonders what it must be in giant and collosal squid. There must be a limit on axon diameter beyond which they would become non-functional. Just curious. Good luck with the dissection.


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