The fascination of squid

On Tuesday 16th September Te Papa will be hosting a very special event. A colossal squid, recently caught in the Ross Sea, will be examined by scientists and you can watch as we live stream the action on YouTube from 11am. Our presenter will be Veronika Meduna, from Radio New Zealand’s Our Changing World.

Squid scientists from Auckland University of Technology will join us as we learn more about only the second example of this species to have been caught intact. Aaron Boyd Evans, a post-graduate researcher at AUT, will be there and in this guest post he writes about his fascination with squid and what he’s hoping to learn from this colossal squid.

Aaron visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. The squid in the tank behind him are big-fin reef squid. And that is an octopus on his t-shirt. As Aaron explains ‘…my passion for cephalopods is prominent in my attire as well as my household belongings.’  © Aaron Boyd Evans

Aaron visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. The squid in the tank behind him are big-fin reef squid. And that is an octopus on his t-shirt. As Aaron explains ‘…my passion for cephalopods is prominent in my attire as well as my household belongings.’ © Aaron Boyd Evans

Squid and octopus have been a fascination of mine from a young age, when I saw giant squid featured on a nature documentary.  Since then, I’ve always known that I wanted to be a marine biologist.  However, I never dreamed that one day I would get to come face to face with a real colossal squid.  These animals are the stuff of legend and it’s quite surreal to get to study one first hand.

My research at AUT focuses on a family of deep-sea squid known as glass squid, which the colossal squid is a part of.  Glass squid are found all around the world and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  I look at the physical features that make these squid unique, determine how their bodies change as they grow and investigate what animals are eating these squid.

The most notable difference between the colossal squid and other glass squid is first and foremost its size; however, it is also the only glass squid to have hooks on both its tentacle clubs AND its arms.  This feature is seen in several other deep-sea squid, and it will be interesting to compare this feature between the two squid species.

The only other intact adult specimen of the colossal squid is female, so almost nothing is known about the male of this species.  If this specimen is male, it will be interesting to compare it to other glass squid species to determine how similar they are. Given how rarely we get to study adults of this species, a female will be equally as exciting, as we can compare it to the previous female examined in 2008. With so many unanswered questions about the colossal squid, this specimen will undoubtedly provide new and exciting information.

Get involved!

Watch on YouTube, or watch below.

If you have questions for our squid scientists, email sciencelive@tepapa.govt.nz. We’ll answer your questions during the live show.

For regular updates and the latest on the colossal squid, follow:

Visit Te Papa’s colossal squid website to find out more about this species

Schools

We’re running a special part of the live-stream just for schools. From 11.30–12 on 16 Sep, we’ll be answering questions from classrooms across New Zealand. To join in and get your class’s question answered, email:
sciencelive@tepapa.govt.nz

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