Colossal squid: Removing the net and a question of squid size

Colossal squid: Removing the net and a question of squid size

Mark Fenwick and Kat Bolstad are in the tank carefully cutting the landing net away from the thawing squid. Fortunately the squid is still partially frozen and is floating, which makes the task much easier.

The beak of the colossal squid has been exposed as the flesh thaws. Preliminary measurement of the lower beak rostral length on the smaller specimen is 42 mm; the lower beak rostral length on the larger specimen is about 43-45 mm.

We know that the beaks of this species attain lower beak rostral lengths of 49 mm . . . . therefore, this animal likely gets much, much bigger – really, really big in fact!

The ‘smaller’ specimen is approximately half the size of the larger specimen in terms of weight, but the beak is only 3-4 mm smaller than the large specimen.  The largest beaks known are at least 5 mm bigger than the larger specimen. . . .  can we assume that this species reaches three quarters of a tonne in weight???


  1. hi to the team, you’re doing such a great job ! Do we know anything about the intelligence of those colossal squids ? I just remember a sea-museum on one of the Greek Islands. They had a tiny squid in there and this guy was able to get a crab out of a closed glass (used for marmelade) in less than a minute. Fascinating and the attraction to all tourists.

  2. Thanks for clearing that up, I know you are all really busy and appreciate your effort.

  3. Actually, the smaller colossal squid has only been found a few months ago. The one found in 2003 has already been examined a long time ago and is now being kept as part of Te Papa’s collections. The information that we wrote might have been a little confusing, we will try to fix it.

  4. We have been watching all day, it’s really exciting, but we where wondering why it took 5 years to dissect the smaller squid (since it was found 2003)? Is there any reason for this? I would of thought scientists from around the globe would have been biting at the bit to get it done straight away. 🙂

  5. Hi, its Mark here.

    So after we have the squid fully defrosted and in place we will top the tank up with formalin until it is 5% strength. This will preserve the specimen after about a month.


  6. 6.5C is 6.5*9/5+32 =43.7F

  7. 6.5C is 6.5*9/5+32 =43.7F

  8. Hi Rochelle,

    That’s not a dumb question, I’d love to know more about what happens to the squid after it is all straightened out and how it manages to retain it shape – does it get ‘fixed’ im some way?

    Great work Te Papa, this blog is great – such a cool way to get answers straight away.


  9. Hi Kat!!.

    Not sure if you remember me. I was in your biology class in 2006, second semester. This must be a dream come true for you!. Im checking the website as often as i can and can’t wait to see the full reveal of the colossal squid.

  10. Yes, it’s the outer layer of skin, which on this specimen has been damaged by the net. Some parts are intact so we are treating it as gently as we can.

    And it doesn’t have a name yet. I wanted to call it Rebeaka, but we need to be sure of its sex first.

  11. You guy’s are doing a great thing having this on web cam. Every science class in Australia & NZ should have this on!! I’m not getting much work done but enjoying a history lesson. Can’t wait to see it stretched out. I couln’t bring myself to have fish for lunch…The chips were good though!!
    Are you or have you given he/she a pet name yet like Squiddy or Bob??
    All the best!

  12. Is that skin (the brown red stuff)that is peeling off from under where Kat took off that big pile of net? One of the scientists appeared to be pulling more off?

  13. Hey Dad,

    Bart and Zac

  14. Hi, This is a dumb blonde question i’m sure.. As it defrosts will the colossal then fill the tank.. As at present it appears to be only taking up a proportion of the tank…

  15. Hi guys,

    will wave again at 2.10 ok!

  16. Hey Dad,
    I saw you wave but Zac missed it..wave again..:-)))))

    Gotta love that baldy bit!


  17. Hey Dad (Mark),
    Or cool bald guy in the tank.!! We are watching you dissecting the giant squid. Wave to us if you see this message.

    Love your prond sons,
    Bart and Zac

  18. Thanks for the question about whether we’re going to carry out any phylogenetic studies or any functional genomic investigations.

    For non-scientists this will be looking at DNA and family trees. Yes we are taking samples for this type of analysis.

  19. 40-50′ Fahrenheit i think……freezing is roughly 32’F no wonder your toes are numb.

  20. I worked out who the bald guy! was before, after you spent eons hosing it down to get the bits you wanted to deforst enough to remove the rope & net, whats does the water smell like, ive noticed is slowly discolouring? are you testing the water for anything?

  21. This is awesome, i keep popping in to see how far youve got in the big thaw, the water looks cold! very cold.

  22. We have two colossal specimens for examination. One is damaged and in several pieces, and is missing both eyes. The head of the larger specimen (still defrosting) is not yet accessible so we don’t know about the state of its eyes. Tentacles crossed!

  23. Can you tell me how big the eyes are? At the NZ Marine Studies Centre in Portobello, Dunedin, we have the model Colossal Squid on display that was made for the Discovery Channel programme “Animal Face Off” and based on the Colossal Squid caught in 2003. Everyone asks about the size of the eyes – were they really that big? Does the Colossal Squid currently being dissected still have its eyes?

  24. PS, Hi Jean. 🙂 No sex yet – females probably get bigger than males, so female is a good guess, but then it’s a 50-50 chance. 😉

  25. Giant squid populations are one of the many unknown things about that species. However, we know that colossal squid (like the one in the big tank) make up 77% of a sperm whale’s diet by weight in the Antarctic – so there are a lot of those in any case!

  26. Are there going to be any phylogenetic studies carried out on the samples you extract; or any functional genomic investigations to determine any adaptive traits this beast of thing might have that may not be so obvious at the post-mortem dissection level?
    This blog and the webcam idea is wonderful by the way, such a rare opportunity for the world to share in such a unique event. Well done Te Papa and everyone involved!

  27. I am assuming from the size of the squid that species numbers can’t be particularly high. Do you have any idea how many there may be?

    It would be a pity if this species ends up needing protection as well…

  28. I’m the bald guy from the tank.

    Yes it is really cold in there – 6.5 degrees Centigrade – anyone know what that is in Franenheit? My toes started to go numb. Our fingers get really cold and the gloves are no use because you have to put your hands right in and you need to be able to feel the specimen to make sure you’re not damaging it.

    We don’t think there is any harm working without gloves as we have done this before and we don’t know of any squid/human pathogens.

  29. that’s an impressive beak size…. is the feeling still that it’s female?

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