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Giant Falklands' squid on display in London

Tuesday, February 28th 2006 - 21:00 UTC
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An 8.62 meters giant squid caught off the Falkland Islands last April has gone on public display at the Natural History Museum in London. Researchers at the museum undertook a painstaking process to preserve the giant creature, which is now on display in a 9m long glass tank immersed in a mix of salt water and formalin.

The squid Architeuthis dux, one of the ocean's most mysterious inhabitants was caught during a regular trawl by the Falklands' flagged fishing vessel 'John Cheek' which is owned by Petrel Trawling Ltd of Stanley and with a licence to catch fin fish in the Falklands' Zone.

At the time the Falklands Fisheries Department's Senior Fisheries Scientist, Russian born Dr. Alexander Arkhipin interviewed by Mercopress said that the 'John Cheek' was trawling for Hoki (Whiptail hake) about 30 miles South West of Weddell Island, off West Falklands, when the discovery was made. The 'giant' squid was immediately put in cold storage.

Dr. Arkhipin said that it is quite common for squid of this species to grow to a mantle length of 5 meters and an overall length of 20 meters. However he added that, 'I would not advise that this 'giant' squid be used for human consumption as the flesh contains a high level of ammonia".

Architeuthis has eight thick "arms" plus two extra-long tentacles, each lined with suckers ringed with teeth which it uses to ensnare prey. It also has the largest eyes in the animal kingdom, measuring up to 25 centimeters across.

Giant squid, once thought to be sea serpents, are very rarely seen and live at depths of 200-1,000m. They can weigh up to a 1,000kg and the largest ever spotted measured a vast 18.5m and was found in 1880 off Island Bay in New Zealand. Last September a team of Japanese scientists filmed a giant squid in the wild for the first time.

"Most giant squid tend to be washed up dead on beaches, or retrieved from the stomach of sperm whales, so they tend to be in quite poor condition," Jon Ablett, mollusks curator at the Natural History Museum, who led preservation efforts, explained. As a result, finding such a large, complete specimen is "something of a rarity", he said.

The team nicknamed the creature Archie, after its Latin name Architeuthis dux, but they may have to revise this after finding out that the squid is probably female. It took several months to prepare the squid for display.

"The first stage was to defrost it; that took about four days. The problem was the mantle - the body - is very thick and the tentacles very narrow, so we had to try and thaw the thick mantle without the tentacles rotting" indicated Mr Ablett.

Reports of giant squid date back to the 1530s, when sailors mistook them for mermen or sea serpents. There have been stories - some fanciful and others based on fact - of giant squid attacking ships.

Author Jules Verne was inspired by the creature when he wrote of Captain Nemo's encounter with a "squid of colossal dimensions" in his novel Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea.

Photo PN:(L-R) Sasha Arkhipkin, Joost Pompert of the Fisheries Department and Stuart Wallace of Fortuna Ltd with a giant squid in Stanley on April 2005

Categories: Falkland Islands.

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