This deep-sea behemoth has always been a subject of fascination for me. Now, it's CONFIRMED that there are giant squids around. Yay !!Giant Squid, Where Are You?If they're so big, why can't we find them?
By Daniel EngberPosted Friday, Dec. 22, 2006, at 3:30 PM ET
On Friday, a group of Japanese scientists unveiled
a video of a live giant squid—what they claim are "the first ever moving pictures of a giant squid." (You can watch the video here
.) In a 2005 Explainer column, reproduced below, Daniel Engber wrote that giant squid are elusive because they live in a dark, deep-sea environment. "Cameras can see only what's within range of an artificial light, and light can scare off some dark-adapted critters," he wrote. (Also see Grady Hendrix's explanation for why we should .)
This week, a British journal published the first-ever pictures
of a giant squid alive in its natural habitat. A pair of Japanese researchers set up an apparatus that photographed the creature as it wrapped its tentacles around some bait attached to a deep-sea camera. How did the giant squid remain elusive for so long?
The difficulty of underwater exploration. The giant squid may be no harder to find than any other animal that lives at the bottom of the ocean. Submersibles that travel thousands of feet underwater have provided scientists with only a limited view of deep-sea life. Cameras can see only what's within range of an artificial light, and light can scare off some dark-adapted critters. Plenty of deep-sea animals other than giant squid have shown up in fishing nets without having been captured on film in their natural environment.
The giant squid seems especially mysterious for a couple of reasons. First of all, its incredible size—giant squids can be 40 feet long or more—makes it hard to believe that it can't be seen alive. Second, dead giant squids surface with surprising regularity. In the last few years, there's been a dramatic increase in the number of giant squid carcasses that have been discovered. So, why is it so hard to find a living giant squid when the dead ones are a dime a dozen?
For one, we don't really know where and how giant squid live. Specimens have been found all over the world, but it's not clear if they have regular migration patterns. We know sperm whales eat giant squid—remains have been found in the whales' stomachs—so some researchers have tracked the predators to find the prey. The Japanese researchers looked for the giant squid where sperm whales were known to congregate. Their camera-on-a-rope technique wasn't particularly innovative. (More adventuresome researchers have attached cameras to the sperm whales, for example.) Giant squid experts think they just got lucky.