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Giant squid washes onto the rocky shore of a Cape Town beach

Friday, August 26th 2022 - 10:00 UTC
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The giant squid (Architeuthis dux) to wash ashore on a Cape Town beach measured roughly 4,3 meters The giant squid (Architeuthis dux) to wash ashore on a Cape Town beach measured roughly 4,3 meters

The carcass of a giant squid, measuring 4,3 meters long washed onto the rocky shore of Scarborough Beach in Cape Town, South Africa. This is the second giant squid to crop up on a beach in the region this year

The last known giant squid (Architeuthis dux) to wash ashore near Cape Town showed up on Long Beach in Kommetjie, on April 30. That cephalopod measured roughly 3.5 meters long. The largest giant squid ever seen measured a whopping 13meters long, and some studies suggest that the creatures could potentially reach 20 meters long, although no squid of such size has ever been spotted.

The squid that washed onto Scarborough Beach this week seemed to be another A. dux specimen, said Mike Vecchione, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration invertebrate zoologist stationed at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

“Although other large squids exist, I am fairly certain this is a true giant squid,” he explained

Other squid species, including the colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni), rival A. dux in terms of sheer size, and some scientists argue that the Architeuthis genus actually includes a variety of giant squid species, rather than A. dux alone, according to the Smithsonian.

Without an examination of its internal organs, it's difficult to guess how the Scarborough Beach squid perished, Vecchione said. ”Note that most of the skin has abraded and some of the arms are broken off, but this (especially the skin abrasion) can result from washing up on the rocky shore.“

It may be that the squid ventured into shallow, near-shore waters to feed and got struck by a ship propeller, ”but this is difficult to prove without witnesses,“ Dylan Clarke, a marine scientist and curator at Iziko South African Museum

”The literature … suggests that they come up into shallower waters because they display a behavior called diel vertical migration. In other words, they venture into shallower waters during the evening to feed and migrate back to deeper waters during the day.“

Giant squid generally live in frigid waters some 500 to 1,000 meters beneath the ocean surface, and they use their dinner plate-size eyes to peer through the inky darkness, according to the Smithsonian. Based on where the animals have washed ashore, scientists think the squids may inhabit at all the world's oceans, but they're most frequently seen on the shores of New Zealand and Pacific islands, on the east and west sides of the North Atlantic, and in the South Atlantic along the African coast.

”Strandings of Architeuthis on South African shores are not unusual at all,“ Vecchione said. ”It is one of several places around the world where they show up regularly.“

In addition, scientists could determine how old the squid was based on its reproductive organs and statoliths, small mineralized masses that sit inside sensory organs in the squid's head and accumulate ”growth rings” over time, Vecchione said. Past studies of these statoliths suggest that giant squid can live to be about 5 years old, according to the Smithsonian. (Live Science)

Tags: South Africa.

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