The creature of the legends and myths, the goliath creature that has originated multiple horror stories for sailors across the world, the giant squid. It has been thought to come to the surface and attack boats and even ships wreaking havoc and inducing terror in the hearts of people who have entered the sea. But is it really that way? Is the giant squid such a massive creature that overshadows even the whales? Well, not really.
Giant Squid or Colossal Squid?
There are two humungous squids when it comes to sheer size. Often these two are mixed up when thinking of a big squid, however, these are two completely different species.
- Giant Squid: Giant squids are a part of the Architeuthis genus family which is considered a true squid species. Their area is hard to pinpoint as their habitat ranges widely as they are found pretty much everywhere the only exception being they are rarely found in tropical regions. They are found at the depth of 1000 meters.
- Colossal Squid: Unlike giant squid, these belong to Cranchiidae which are different types of squids. These are found in Antarctic waters and similar to giant squids, these are found at the depth of 1000 meters.
Facts about the Giant Squid
Now that we have established that these are two different species let’s know more about these giant cephalopods.
1. Largest Invertebrate: Though the blue whale may be the largest recorded animal on the planet it is a vertebrate, meanwhile the largest invertebrate title goes to the giant squid. As they can get anywhere from 38-45 feet in size, second place is taken by a different squid. You guessed it right, the colossal squid. Its main body known as the mantle is around 8 feet long and the longest part of it is the two tentacles which are roughly 33 feet long. As you can guess all the vital organs of squid are within the mantle.
2. Females are bigger: Like many other species in the animal kingdom, female giant squids are larger than males. While the previously mentioned size is of females, males max out at 33 feet. Though these are the largest recorded sizes of both males and females, researchers believe at even greater depths, larger-sized ones can be found.
3. Regenerative Tentacles: Cephalopods are known for their regenerative abilities, however, squids are not capable to do so. The giant squid is an exception in this case. In 1968, a giant squid was found to have one tentacle smaller and less developed compared to the other one. Researchers believed that it was due to giant squid possessing the regenerative ability, if it is actually the case or not, it is not certain.
4. Round Suckers: Unlike colossal squid that has hooks for suckers on their arms, giant squids have many cup-shaped serrated suckers on each arm. These are of course used to catch their prey but are also used in fights where they must inflict massive damage to escape from their predators.
5. Their Predators: Speaking of the predators, sperm whales are the natural predators of giant squids. It is estimated that one sperm whale eats at least one giant squid a month, given they are not easy prey to catch. Remember those nasty serrated suckers? Sperm whales have been observed with deep battle scars inflicted by giants squids during their battles. Also, whales cannot breathe underwater, this makes this hunt even more interesting as they dive up to 1500 meters to consume these squids.
6. Massive Eyes: Being at 10.5 inches across, they have one of the largest eyes in the animal kingdom, roughly the same size as a dinner plate. But unlike most animal eyes that are spherical, they have a different types of eyes. Their eyes are filled with a jelly-like substance that holds the structure of the eye as long as the squid is alive, as soon as it dies, their eyes collapse. It seems evolution chose these types of eyes as they are living in such pressure where the lens within the eye may shatter.
7. Multi-purpose Tool: First thought would be that tentacles are a giant squid’s multi-purpose tool, however, that is not the case. The funnel, which is on the underside of their mantle is used to pump and expel waste. Not only that, it is also used to lay eggs, squirt ink when threatened, and propel their bodies like jets via this funnel.
8. Spikey Tongue: To call it tongue wouldn’t be fair and for that reason, scientists have named this organ Radula. Inside their beak, there are a set of seven spikey dentures that are backward-pointing. It is used to drill holes in the prey’s body or grate them into finer particles.
9. The Donut: The reason why they possess an organ such as a radula is that their brain is not a solid blob but it is ring-shaped. Even crazy thing is that its esophagus goes through that hole within the brain. If squids didn’t have the means to grate their food prior to eating they would literally split open their brain while trying to consume a larger chunk of food. So the next time you call squid a donut, it is fair.
10. More hearts: Like many other cephalopods, giant squids also have three hearts. It consists of two branchial hearts that are responsible for pumping blood to the gills while the systemic heart is the primary heart that pumps blood to the rest of the body. Additionally, their systemic heart has three chambers. Speak of the trinity.
As is with any other animal, giant squids are fascinating creatures. However, unlike other animals that more or less have similar features, these squids are basically aliens that happen to live in the oceans of our planet.