September 22, 2009

Rare Giant Squid Caught Off The Gulf Of Mexico

The Interior Department said on Monday that U.S. scientists in the Gulf of Mexico unexpectedly netted a 19.5-foot giant squid off the coast of Louisiana, demonstrating how little is known about life in the deep waters of the Gulf, Reuters reported.

Experts said the rare species had not been spotted in the Gulf of Mexico since 1954, when a giant squid was found floating dead off the Mississippi Delta.

A research vessel caught the 103-pound squid more than 1,500 feet underwater while using a trawling net on July 30.

The squid did not survive the rapid change in water depth when brought to the surface, but researchers had it preserved and sent to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History for more research.

The scientists, at the time, were participating in a pilot study on the diets of sperm whales. The study included researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service.

Anthony Martinez, a marine mammal scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the chief scientist on the research cruise, said that as the trawl net rose out of the water, he could see that they had something big.

Scientists were aware of the giant squid's presence in the Gulf Remnants, as squid remains have been found in the stomachs of its predators in the waters of the Gulf, Caribbean and Florida Keys.

Researchers called it a significant find, because the species are difficult to catch and much can be learned from the specimen.

"The squid was an important addition to the worldwide study of squids. This find illustrates how little we know about what is swimming around in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico," said Michael Vecchione, director of NOAA's Fisheries Service's National Systematics Laboratory.

The giant squid, which can grow up to 40 feet long, are usually found in deep-water fisheries, such as off Spain and New Zealand.

Vecchione said it was the first time one has actually been captured during scientific research in the Gulf of Mexico.


Image Caption:  Giant squid collected by NOAA on July 30 off the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico. (Credit: NOAA)


On the Net: