What does a squid feel like – according to Emma

Emma touches the smaller colossal squid

Phew-wee! Never thought I’d be saying this but…. I’m becoming a squid geek!

I’m Emma – you might’ve just seen me on the various cameras (not sure which is my best side) – I work at Te Papa and couldn’t turn down this once-in-a-lifetime invite to see THE SQUID.

My plan was also to touch it. To be honest anything with lots of legs/tentacles gives me the willies but if it’s there (and not moving is a bonus in my book) you have to touch!

It’s cold – not surprising. It’s smooth, slimy. The gills felt extremely fragile, you could hardly feel them at all other than slime. They were breaking up in my fingers. I was told that each set of gills has a heart, with the main heart close by – eat your hearts out Dr Who!

Emma holding part of the gladius  

I held the gladius – it’s like a very thin, curved plastic ruler that goes through the mantle. It provides some support for the muscles but is nowhere as strong as our backbones. Its curve makes it stronger.

Emma touches the delicate gills

What I was really intrigued about was the eye-sockets. Ours are bone. Eyes are squishy and need that support – so I don’t know why I was surprised at how solid the cartilage felt – kind of like a glue gun stick before you melt it.

Emma holding part of the eye socket

Now I’m off to face my fears and let one of the scientists stick a sucker on my finger – ewwwwww

JUST DONE IT! I’ve been suckered by a sucker from the big colossal still defrosting (it fell off – honest!)

It reminded me of an eyeball that wouldn’t come off my palm – when you pull it off it makes a kissy noise. xxx 

13 Responses

  1. Jordy

    Hi im doing an inquiry on the colossus squid for school it would be helpful if you had some coool pics and stuff like broshers that i could use????? COLOSSUS SQUIDS ARE AWESOME!!! P.S ur website was awesome help i found out loads!!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • pamelalovis

      Hi Jordy
      Great to here from you and hope your school project is going ok. You can get a picture of the colossal squid as we think she’d look like alive on the front of Te Papa’s “What’s On” brochure for December.

      Also watch out for our new website all about the colossal squid which you’ll be able to see from a week today, on Sat 13 December – with loads more pictures of the squid and heaps of info. Hope you like it!


  2. chrispaulin

    The squid smell is nothing . . . try Anton’s whale if you want a real olfactory experience!
    (Mind you, we don’t try to use public transport 😉

  3. Emma


    I was very excited to get to work this morning to see if anyone else had posted messages – thank you Chris P for answering the tricky ones from Uschi.
    As for the smell – well, you don’t notice it so much in the room but driving home I had to have the car window down!

  4. Michelle, Cedric, Abbey & Cole

    Just wanted to say thanks for the great description of what the squid felt like. We have been fascinated in our household and our 4 year old is now a squid geek!

    Thanks again, you have all done a great job. Will look forward to visiting Te Papa to see the real thing when it is displayed.

  5. Raphael D.

    Well thank you for this very nice description.
    I think that you guys do a great job and I just wanted to say thanks to the photographer, the pictures are awesome.

    I am cool.

  6. chrispaulin

    The specimen is in good condition because it was blast frozen when it was fresh – and it came out of antarctic water, so there was little chance for decay. It has remained in good condition because of the sheer size of the bodymass which has stayed frozen in the core for over 48 hours!

  7. Nicki Emma, Rich and Zac

    Hi Emma
    You have just achieved celebrity status in our household, I bet you were relieved that they could get the sucker off, althought it would have made an interesting talking point,
    cheers Nicki

  8. Uschi

    Hi Emma 🙂

    Thanks for explaining so detailed what all the parts of the squeed feel like. That was very enlightening. And a big thanks to the photographer – the pics are awesome!

    I’m astonished at how well preserved the internal organs of the animal are. From the pictures, I can’t detect any traces of decay. Did your team use a special frosting and defrosting technique to prevent tissue damage? (I’m a limnologist and occasionally do post-mortems on freshwater fish. I often get specimens that were half decayed before frosting or that started to decay while defrosting. – Not a job one would like to do immediately after breakfast 😉 – If there’s a good method to avoid decay I’d love to learn it!)

    How do these deep sea squids keep their body temperature up in the cold water? It doesn’t look like they have a lot of fat tissue.

    LOL sorry about the many questions, but like all biologists I’m terribly curious. 😉

    Thanks to everyone at Te Papa for sharing the reports, pictures and data with us! =)

    Greetings from the other side of the globe 😉


  9. Lara, Mila and Caleb

    Thank you Emma, hope you smell better soon – oooh yucky! Mummy is just printing off your blog off now so I can put you into my homework journal.

    I have written you a poem and drawn a picture for you that Mummy will email to you later on.

    Love, Mila
    PS Mummy thinks the sucker was probably really yucky!!

  10. Emma


    oh yes I smell something bad!

    Hi Mila! Yes it did feel very cold and squishy. I touched the smaller colossal thats on the table, the really big one thats floating in the tank is still defrosting. The liquid it’s in looks horrible!
    Thank you for telling me where they came from – you know heaps!
    The sucker wasn’t as bad as I thought – like a kissing eyeball 🙂

  11. Pamela

    Hey Emma, it’s great that you’ve now felt a colossal squid, but I need to tell you that you smell something terrible…..

    Welcome to the squid-geek club!

  12. Lara, Mila and Caleb

    WOW babe!!! So good to see you on here – the kids are so excited to see you on the net!! Mila wants to know what the squid felt like on your hand – was it cold and squishy, and had it finished defrosting? She also says to say, in case you don’t know, that squids come from Antarctica because they like the cold, dark water!!
    Anyway hope the suckers weren’t too scary and there weren’t too many ‘wierd floaty bits’!!
    Love, Lara, Mila and Caleb


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