Colossal squid: between reality and legends

The colossal squid lives in northern Antarctica, southern South America, southern South Africa and the southern tip of New Zealand, making it primarily an inhabitant of the entire Southern Ocean

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Colossal squid: between reality and legends

The largest known example of the Colossal Squid measures about ten meters in length, weighing 495 kg. According to current estimates, its maximum size can reach 15 meters. These estimates are based on the analysis of young and small individuals and on the remains found in the stomachs of sperm whales.

The colossal squid is arguably larger than the giant squid, and thus the largest of known invertebrates. Its beak is the most voluminous of all known squid and its eyes are probably the largest in the animal kingdom. As of 2016, no adult male colossal squid has yet been identified.

Like all squid, the colossal squid has a beak: it actually has the most voluminous and strongest of all squid beaks. It is similar to that of the parrot, but, unlike the latter, the lower part overlaps the upper part. It is composed of chitin and is surrounded by muscle tissue.

The colossal squid lives in northern Antarctica, southern South America, southern South Africa and the southern tip of New Zealand, making it primarily an inhabitant of the entire Southern Ocean. In the absence of a sufficient number of samples taken from different locations, the geographical distribution of the colossal squid must be deduced from indirect sources.

Although the geographical distribution of the colossal squid's prey and predators can be used to deduce its distribution and movements, this information can only be acquired from specimens found in the stomachs. Furthermore, some predators of the colossal squid carry out great migrations; thus the sperm whale migrates for thousands of kilometers and the albatross travels an average of over 1200 km from its nesting site to hunt.

From the few specimens captured, as well as from the remains found in the stomachs of sperm whales, it was found that adult squid live at least to a depth of 2200 meters, while the juveniles do not go beyond 1000 meters of depth.

Many sperm whales carry scars on their backs that could have been caused by the hooks of a colossal squid. Indeed, the colossal squid figures among the prey of the sperm whale diet: 14% of the squid beaks found in the stomachs of these sperm whales belong to colossal squid, indicating that the colossal squid accounts for 77% of the biomass consumed by these sperm whales.

cetaceans. On February 22, 2007, New Zealand authorities announced the capture of the largest known colossal squid. The specimen weighed 495 kg and its total length was initially estimated at 10 m. Fishermen aboard the San Aspiring vessel belonging to the Sanford Fishing Company Limited had caught the animal in the icy waters of the Ross Sea.

It had been brought back to the surface attached to a southern cod that had been caught with a long line. Since he did not let go of his prey and could not be removed from the line, the fishermen decided to kill him. After wrapping it in a net, they retrieved it and froze it on board. This colossal squid eclipsed the previous record of a specimen caught in 2003 weighing approximately 195 kg