#squidwatch with Jesse Kelly

On Tuesday 16th September Te Papa hosted a very special event. A colossal squid from the Ross Sea, was examined by scientists. You can watch the live stream of the event as it happened on YouTube.

Squid scientists from Auckland University of Technology  (AUT) and the University of Otago joined us. In this guest post  Jesse Kelly, a post-graduate researcher at AUT, describes his experience.

Cleaned upper beak (right) and lower beak (left) of the colossal squid specimen © Jesse Kelly

Cleaned upper beak (right) and lower beak (left) of the colossal squid specimen © Jesse Kelly

It’s been two weeks since #squidwatch and the livestreaming examination of a colossal squid at Te Papa. The AUT and University of Otago squid researchers had a busy couple days afterward, monitoring the beginning of the process to preserve the colossal squid and exploring Te Papa’s extensive collection of cephalopods. Aaron, Kat, and I loaned specimens from the collections for further study and inclusion in various projects. Heather brought samples of frozen tissue and stomach contents back to Auckland, and Tyler returned to Dunedin with some examples of hooks and suckers from the squid’s arms. It was an incredible opportunity for science, and one that will continue to shed light on this poorly-known species for years to come.

The most memorable moment for me came when we were removing the beaks. My finger was between the two beaks, which felt unyieldingly hard, and as Kat cut around the bulb of muscle underneath slight tugs and pulls were transferred through to the beaks. The result was that it felt like the squid might yet still be alive and ready to eat my finger. I couldn’t help picture how it would feel to be chopped up by a colossal squid in the frigid Antarctic waters, and was quite happy when the beaks finally came free. My research deals with other large squid, with large beaks and hundreds of sharp hooks, but I’ve never had an experience quite as chilling as that.

We were incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity, and are indebted to Te Papa for hosting the event, and to the crew of the San Aspiring for realising what an important specimen had come up on its long-line in Antarctica last summer. We were amazed and delighted with the online response and diversity of questions that came in during the event.

One Response

  1. Phillip

    fascinating! was there any evidence that these monsters battle the sperm whales? e.g. marks on body or contents in stomach?


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