March 21, 2013
DNA Sleuths Reveal That Giant Squid Around The World Are One Single Species
[ Watch the Video: Giant Squid All One Big Happy Family ]
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe OnlineAn international team of researchers say they have discovered that the giant squid's DNA stretches across the globe, meaning the ocean beasts intermingle and mate throughout the world.
The team wrote in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B that no matter where the elusive animals are found, they are so closely related at the genetic level that they represent a single, global population.
Danish naturalist Japetus Steenstrup first described the giant squid back in 1857, saying that this animal was the same that had given rise to centuries of sailors tales. Steenstrup saw that many of the monsters of sea-legend were related to fragments he had been sent of what appeared to be a giant squid. However, despite the many tales, it wasn't until last year that the giant squid was first video-taped alive in its natural element, at a depth of 2,000 feet.
"It has been tremendous to apply the latest techniques in genetic and computational analyses, to follow up on Steenstrup´s scientific research 146 years after he started it," Professor Tom Gilbert, who lead the team that undertook the research, said in a recent statement. "But its also been a fantastic experience to work with the giant squid as a species, because of its legendary status as a seamonster."
Samples of giant squid have been seen throughout the world, and now the international team of scientists have confirmed that the 10-armed, 1900-pound, 40-foot beasts are a consistent species.
"We have analyzed DNA from the remains of 43 giant squid collected from all over the world," said University of Copenhagen PhD student Inger Winkelmann. "The results show, that the animal is genetically nearly identical all over the planet, and shows no evidence of living in geographically structured populations."
He said they believe that although evidence suggests the adults remain in relatively restricted geographic regions, the young ones live on the ocean's surfaces and must drift in the currents globally.
"Once they reach a large enough size to survive the depths, we believe they dive to the nearest suitable deep waters, and there the cycle begins again," Winkelmann added. "Nevertheless, we still lack a huge amount of knowledge about these creatures. How big a range to they really inhabit as adults? Have they in the past been threatened by things such as climate change, and the populations of their natural enemies, such as the planet´s largest toothed whale, the sperm whale that can grow up to 20 m in length and 50 tons? And at an even more basic level“¦how old do they even get and how quickly do they grow?"
Gilbert said that despite their findings, he has no doubt that the myths and legends surrounding the giant squid will continue.
The first photos of the giant squid were taken by a team of Japanese scientists in 2005. The team, led by Tsunemi Kubodera, captured the sea monster on film using a camera operated by remote control. They said the squid they captured on film used its enormous tentacles to go after bait they had on the end of the camera. The squid became stuck, and then left behind a tentacle about six yards long to get away.