April 30, 2008

Scientists Reveal Colossal Squid’s Massive Eyes

Researchers at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa reported the eye size of the world's largest squid, adding that they may be the largest animal eyes ever discovered.

With a diameter larger than a football, the eyes measure about 11 inches across, but could have been even larger when the colossal squid was still alive.

"These are truly amazing eyes," said Eric Warrant, an expert on animal vision from the University of Lund in Sweden.

"In the collapsed state we see here, they measure 25cm across; but in the living animal they are probably larger, up to around 30 cm."

The pupils alone are about 3 inches across.

"These are without doubt the largest eyes that have ever been studied, and probably among the largest eyes that have existed during the history of the animal kingdom," Professor Warrant concluded.

Colossal squid are elusive and are rarely brought to shore. This one, a 34ft-long female, was caught by fishermen in the Ross Sea near Antarctica last year.

Scientists have already started the process of dissecting the specimen. They had previously thought the squid was male, but were surprised to discover ovaries containing thousands of eggs.

Female squid are considered to be larger, so if this specimen had been male, it would have been assumed that larger specimens still existed.

The squid is equipped with a lower beak, reaching 4cm across, and barbed clubs at the end of its tentacles for hunting.

"It's endowed with a killer arsenal," said Steve O'Shea from the University of Technology.

After using an endoscope in the animal's stomach, researchers hope to have a better idea of its diet before being caught.

So far, people have come from 188 countries to get a glimpse of the colossal squid.

The team is also dissecting a much smaller colossal squid specimen that has part of its body missing, and a giant squid - a member of the Architeuthis genus.

Giant squid can reach the same length as colossal squid, but their bodies tend to be smaller.

Researchers at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa have even been posting continuous updates of their progress on the museum's official blog.

Later in the week, the team is expected to give public lectures about the initial results.

Once thawed and examined, the squid will be embalmed and preserved.


On the Net:

Te Papa's Blog

Colossal Squid Blog

"Scientists Study Rare Colossal Squid Specimen"