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Giant squid was long considered to be true sea monster. Many people even today, still believe in myths and legends about them.
Recently, researchers have been able to contribute with more significant data regarding these apparently mysterious animals living on our planet.
But what did people know about these extremely rarely seen creatures in the distant past?
In this photo released by Tsunemi Kubodera, a researcher with Japan’s National Science Museum, a giant squid attacking a bait squid is pulled up by his research team off the Ogasawara Islands, south of Tokyo, on December 4, 2006. Photo credits: Tsunemi Kubodera of the National Science Museum of Japan/AP
The squid was well known in the region of Mediterranean in ancient times and described by Pliny (25 AD – 79 AD), a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher and Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher and polymath. Aristotle said that there was a common squid tethis, which was only about a foot (30 cm) long and another much larger, rarer variety – teuthos, which grew up to eight or nine feet (2.5m).
|Of their appearance, Aristotle said, these giants were rumoured to be “like shields” red in color and with many fins..”
For a period of one thousand years, scientists hadn’t more knowledge about giant squid and their consensus in Europe agreed basically with Aristotle.
In 1857, the famous Danish zoologist Japetus Steenstrup (1813 – 1897) realized this beast was the same animal that in the past gave rise to centuries of sailors tails, and even in more recent became immortalized by writers such as Jules Verne and Herman Melville, by demonstrating that the monster was based in reality, and gave it the latin name Architeuthis dux.
About one year ago, that the giant squid, Architeuthis dux, was first filmed alive in its natural element. Taken at a depth of 630m and after 100 missions and 400 hours of filming, the footage was captured by a small submarine lying off Chichijima Island, Japan.
However, all we know about this enigmatic animal is that it has 10 arms, and can grow to more than 40- feet long. Fully grown, it can weigh 2,000 pounds. They eat everything from fish, dolphins, porpoises to other giant squid and even whales.
Neil Landman says the giant squid usually live to about 300 m depth (depth reached by conventional submarines our best), but these animals could live without any problem in most abyssal depths.
They are an active and surprisingly strong predator. Anything live that comes their way, in fact – including us, humans. Apart from whales, giant squid have no real predators, but while growing, they are vulnerable to any marine carnovore larger than themselves.
Now, PhD student Inger Winkelmann and her supervisor Professor Tom Gilbert, from the Basic Research Centre in GeoGenetics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen University, have managed to place new bricks into the puzzle of this giant 10 armed invertebrate, that is credibly believed to grow up to 13 meters long and way over 900 kg.
Giant squid – close-up
They concluded that giant squid – no matter what a sample looks like, its one species all over the deep oceans of the planet.
This lack of genetic diversity is puzzling. While giant squid are elusive, the researchers wrote, their populations are believed to be relatively large and geographically spread out—qualities usually associated with high diversity.
According to researchers, “it is difficult to reconcile this low genetic diversity with the reasonable assumption that Architeuthis are globally distributed with relatively large population size.”
Remarkably little is known about the giant squid and so much knowledge about the species is still missing. The team collected 43 squid from diverse locations, including New Zealand, South Africa, and the Falkland Islands. They were found floating dead in the water, washed up on beaches, or as accidental by-catch from deep-sea fishermen.
The results of the study are published on the 200th anniversary of the Danish naturalist and polymath, Japetus Steenstrup (born in 1813).
Paper will be published in the British journal the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.