May 11, 2010
So, waaaaay back in January I started this series to count down the ten types of squid I find most fascinating (in no particular order, more or less). I’m not exactly sure why I lost momentum so tremendously, but I figure it’s finally time to wrap things up. If you’ve been following along, I’m sure it will come as little surprise which species made the top two spots. (If you missed them, follow the Ten Sensational Squids tag for entries 10-3.)
2. Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni (Colossal Squid)
This is it, the longest and heaviest known squid. In fact, M. hamiltoni is the largest living Invertebrate. Well, probably.
First identified in 1925 from remains found in the stomachs of Sperm Whales, the Colossal Squid lives only in Antarctic waters. The largest known specimen to date (even bigger than the one pictured above with teuthologist Steve O’Shea) was captured by a New Zealand fishing boat in 2007 and measured an estimated 10 m (~33 ft) in total length and weighed 495 kg (~1,091 lb). It is currently on display at the Musem of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
Most known Colossal Squid specimens are of immature individuals, but extrapolating from the sizes of beaks recovered from whales, scientists have estimated that adults can attain a total body length of up to 14 m (~46 ft)! Mesonychoteuthis also possesses the largest eyes of any animal, over a foot across—even though that record is still commonly awarded to the slightly smaller, but more famous, Giant Squid (Architeuthis dux). Compared to the Giant Squid, the Colossal Squid has shorter arms and tentacles, but possesses a mantle that is both longer and more robust—as much as 4m (~13 ft) long. Another notable difference between these two species is that the arms and tentacle clubs of M. hamiltoni sport vicious-looking hooks instead of suckers, a distinction that is nicely illustrated in this display at London’s Darwin Centre.
M. hamiltoni, which is the only known species of the genus Mesonychoteuthis, is Cranchiid squid, which makes it closely related to the wee Piglet Squid we encountered earlier in the countdown.
For more on the Colossal Squid, check out this slideshow by Tonmo.com which collects a lot of cool images and facts about this rarely seen giant.