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Roger Portell injecting preservative into a giant squid. (Photo: Jeff Gage,UF/Fda.Museum of Natural History)

Giant squid found dying, caught off South Florida

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Tuesday, July 05, 2011, 15:40 (GMT + 9)

Researchers at the University of Florida (UF) were gifted a rare 25-ft-long deep-water giant squid caught in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast South Florida by recreational fishers. 

The specimen is unique in the Florida Museum of Natural History.

“It’s so rare to get these specimens and they’re such deep-water animals that we don’t know much about how they live,” said John Slapcinsky, Florida Museum malacology collection manager. “This specimen provides an excellent opportunity to learn things about these creatures we couldn’t find out any other way.”

He said that giant squids only reproduce once and later often die slowly after becoming lethargic. The dying cephalopod was probably in that state when the fishers caught it.

As the giant squid appeared intact yet dying when caught, museum invertebrate paleontologist Roger Portell thinks it may have just reproduced, reports National Geographic. 

25-foot-long giant squid. (Photo: Jeff Gage, University of Florida/Florida Museum of Natural History)

"As a general rule in cephalopods, both males and females die shortly after reproducing. It is assumed that this is what also happens in this species," he explained.

One of the largest invertebrates, giant squids grow up to 60 ft in length and weigh more than 1,000 lb. Because they are seldom seen, however, little is known about their reproduction, ecology and life span. 

These animals tend to dwell in deep waters, which is why they are rarely encountered, and have been seen sparring with sperm whales, a common predator, Slapcinsky said.

The invertebrate is white with red skin containing color-bearing cells called chromatophores, which squid can activate and rapidly change color and color intensity for communication and sometimes camouflage, he elaborated.

Grasping_tentacle. (Photo: Jeff Gage, University of Florida/Florida Museum of Natural History)

Scientists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) extracted genetic samples from the squid brought with the specimen to UF. The scientists injected formalin into the body cavity before submerging the squid in a 10 per cent-solution of the preservative.

The preservation process will take about two weeks, after which researchers will determine the squid’s sex and age and compare it with other specimens. Scientists hope to gain insight into the life of these squids, including their range, diet and how they reproduce.

Further, the genetic data will help researchers studying if there are one or more species of giant squid, said Portell.

Related article:

- Giant squid in uncertain situation 

By Natalia Real
[email protected]
www.fis.com

 


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