An adult specimen of the world's largest known squid was hauled to the surface by a New Zealand longliner fishing for toothfish in Antarctic waters. The creature, known as a colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) and with eyes the size of a car tire weighed an estimated 450 kilograms.
The squid was eating a hooked toothfish when it was hauled from the deep by the vessel San Aspiring. "It is likely that it is the first intact adult male colossal squid to ever be successfully landed," Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said today. "The scientific community will be very interested in this amazing creature". Examination of it would help to answer basic questions such as how large the species grows and how long it lives. The squid ÃÂ¢€" regarded by experts as the world's largest and most aggressive species ÃÂ¢€" is to be transferred to the Museum of New Zealand in Wellington for scientific study. The 450 kg squid was barely alive when it reached the surface and the vessel's crew thought it would be very unlikely to survive if released. Only a handful of colossal squid have previously been sighted, and New Zealand researcher Professor Steve O'Shea caused a stir in 2003 with photographs of an immature female ÃÂ¢€" also caught while attacking a toothfish ÃÂ¢€" the first "live" capture. Prof O'Shea, a world expert, said of the six meters specimen: "This squid is a really nasty aggressive sort of squid. . . a gelatinous blob with seriously evil arms on it". Colossal squid are estimated to grow up to 46 feet long, can descend to over 2.000 meters and have long been one of the most mysterious creatures of the deep ocean. "I can assure you that this is going to draw phenomenal interest. It is truly amazing," added Dr. O'Shea, "if calamari rings were made from the squid they would be the size of tractor tires". The new specimen was captured by fishermen who used a cargo net, and a Government fisheries observer who acquired the specimen as a "sample" with the help of the fishing company, Sanford Ltd. It is thought to be the most intact of the seven specimens recorded ÃÂ¢€" most of which were found in the stomachs of sperm whales. Colossal squid are not related to giant squid, which also grow up to 12m long, and colossal squid have much larger body and smaller tentacles than the giant squid, and are a much heavier animal. The colossal squid has swiveling hooks in the suckers at the tips of its tentacles ÃÂ¢€" suggesting it is an aggressive hunter ÃÂ¢€" while giant squid have suckers lined with small teeth. The animal was first described in 1925 from just two tentacles found in the stomach of a sperm whale: the colossal squid makes up three quarters of the diet of large sperm whales and there are thought to be large numbers of them in Antarctic waters. According to Dr O'Shea colossal squid range as far north as a line between Christchurch and the Chatham Islands in New Zealand.
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