Colossal Squid: What did we find?

John Bennett, Skipper of the fishing vessel San Aspiring, and scientists from Auckland University of Technology examine the colossal squid. Photographer: Norm Heke © Te Papa

Scientists from Auckland University of Technology, and John Bennett, Skipper of the San Aspiring, with the colossal squid. Photographer: Norm Heke © Te Papa

Over 380,000 viewers tuned in over the past 24 hours to watch the examination of our most recent colossal squid. If you missed it, you can still watch it on YouTube here:

Watch Te Papa’s colossal squid examination

What did scientists find?

Digested stomach contents and jelly-filled eyes might not sound exciting, but scientists were extremely interested in these two slightly gruesome-looking findings.

Stomach contents

The recent colossal squid was the first ever to be found with stomach contents – digested food, amongst other goo.

Scientists at Auckland University of Technology will examine the stomach contents to find out more about the colossal squid’s diet – what does it feed on out in the cold Southern Ocean?

Eyes

Dr Kat Bolstad holding the lens from a colossal squid eye. Photographer: Norm Heke © Te Papa

Dr Kat Bolstad holding the lens from a colossal squid eye. Photographer: Norm Heke © Te Papa

At 37cm across this squid’s eyes are the biggest found – ever! Eyes of the colossal squid are huge (the biggest in the world) and these eyes didn’t disappoint. The eye dissected by scientists is in fantastic condition, enabling researchers to find out more about how colossal squid eyes work and how they evolved. Additionally, brain tissue was attached to the eye, which is a rare find. This brain tissue will be examined in further detail at the AUT lab.

Size

At approximately 350kg, this colossal squid is somewhat lighter than the colossal squid currently on display, which weighs in at 495kg. The total length of the most recent specimen is unknown as the very long tentacles, which can be up to 2 metres in length, were not attached to the animal.

Beak

Colossal squid beak. Photographer: Norm Heke © Te Papa

Colossal squid beak. Photographer: Norm Heke © Te Papa

The large, parrot-like beak was in pristine condition, with a sizeable buccal (cheek) mass attached to it. Researchers can use this beak to find out more about the colossal squid’s biology and life history, including the age of the animal.

Gender and reproduction

Like all other colossal squid specimens found, this colossal squid is female. Scientists were able to determine this by examining the animal’s reproductive parts and extracting eggs. It’s an excellent opportunity for researchers to learn more about reproduction in this species, which is still little understood.

Aaron Boyd Evens, Auckland University of Technology, counts suckers on a colossal squid arm. Photograph: Norm Heke © Te Papa

Aaron Boyd Evans, Auckland University of Technology, counts suckers on a colossal squid arm. Photograph: Norm Heke © Te Papa

What happens during the preserving process?

A lengthy preserving process has begun. The colossal squid is now sitting in a custom-built tank filled with formalin. The formalin is a powerful preservative and helps to kill bacteria and fungi.

After several months, the specimen will be put into mono-propylene glycol; a stable, clear liquid. We’ll be assessing over time how best to use the colossal squid as part of our collections.

Thanks to AUT scientists

It was a real pleasure to collaborate with the amazing squid scientists at AUT. The scientific excellence available right here in New Zealand is astonishing, and highlights the value of Te Papa’s collections to scientists from New Zealand and beyond. As a national facility, Te Papa is proud to make specimens from its extensive collections available to other researchers.

Your questions

Thank you for sending in your questions for the squid scientists. We had hundreds of excellent questions from musings on squid intelligence, to queries about tiny squid babies!

While we didn’t manage to get through all of them during the live stream, we’re working on a blog answering the most frequently asked questions. Keep an eye out for that appearing very soon.

More info

2 Responses

  1. Dylan Macleod

    My dad was on this boat with the collosal squid at te papa his name I’d Daniel MacLeod

    Reply
  2. Phillip

    what do giant squid eat?

    Reply

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