The documentary-style introduction for Investigate the Giant Squid
presents some of the many mysteries of this ocean creature. It
also introduces students to Neil Landman, a paleontologist at
the American Museum of Natural History and the guide for this
After viewing the introduction as a class, print and distribute
the following script
(PDF) to help students ask their own questions about the giant
Far beneath the ocean waves, a mysterious creature roams the cold,
dark world of the deep sea. It has enormous eyes — the size
of soccer balls — and the eyes never blink as they scan
the waters for prey. Suddenly, the creature shoots out a jet of
water. Its eight long arms sway while two longer tentacles spring
like massive rubber bands to grab an unsuspecting fish. Stretched
out like this, the creature is as long as a bowling alley. This
may sound like an imaginary monster, but this animal is real.
The giant squid is the largest invertebrate on earth, and it may
be one of the most mysterious animals to ever live. For hundreds
of years, it’s fascinated everyone from kids to fishermen
to scientists, but so far we’ve only caught glimpses that
feed our fascination with the underwater giant.
Where does the giant squid swim? How quickly does it grow? How
long does it live? No one knows for sure. We do know that the
giant squid’s ocean habitat is almost pitch black, very
cold, and under enormous pressure that would crush most submarines.
In these extreme conditions, the giant squid probably moves, hunts,
mates, and breathes in very different ways from animals in shallow
waters. Much of what we know comes from specimens that have been
found washed ashore, or in fishing nets, or in the stomach of
the sperm whale, the giant squid’s main predator.
In 1998, Neil Landman examined a complete giant squid that had
been pulled up in fishing nets off the coast of New Zealand. Neil
is a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History.
He’s fascinated by the giant squid and other cephalopods.
Cephalopods are soft-bodied sea creatures with arms, beaks, and
in some cases, tentacles. Neil is particularly interested in how
these and other creatures have changed over time. To peer into
the past, he examines fossils.
Neil found his first fossil outside his school in Brooklyn when
he was just 7 years old. It was an ancient brachiopod, a sea animal
that’s kind of like a clam. He couldn’t believe it
— this clue made him realize that parts of New York State
had once been an ocean! (Remember, the Earth’s been around
a long time, and our lifetime is just one tiny slice of its history).
Neil likes to study fossils today because they help recreate the
ancient world. But if someone offered him a trip in a time machine,
he wouldn’t turn it down!
Begin a class discussion with these questions:
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ideas and learning connections.
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