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The giant squid attacks bait on a rope.
The giant squid attacks bait on a rope.
(Photo: National Science Museum/AP Wide World)

The Giant Squid Show
By Tiffany Chaparro

Friday, September 30—For hundreds of years, fishermen told stories about a giant sea creature with eyes the size of dinner plates and tentacles longer than their boats. But no one had ever taken a picture of a living giant squid.

Until now.

Japanese scientists Tsunemi Kubodera and Kyoichi Mori filled two mesh bags with fresh, squished shrimp, and dangled them from a fishing boat sailing off the coast of Japan's Bonin Islands. They waited. Finally, last September, a 26-foot-long purplish-red giant squid took a bite. It grabbed the food with its tentacles, twisted its tentacles into a ball, and was caught on a hook. It eventually broke free, leaving a spidery, 18-foot tentacle behind.

A robotic camera snapped pictures of the squirming squid, collecting more than 550 digital images.

"We believe this is the first time a grown giant squid has been captured on camera in its natural habitat," said Mori.

Scientists Amazed

Squid hunters are very excited. "Wow!" said Emory Kristof, a photographer for National Geographic. "We know so little [about giant squid]. It's great that they got it." Kristof has gone to New Zealand twice in hopes of capturing giant squid on film.

The finding also pleased scientist Mark Norman of Museum Victoria in Melbourne, Australia.

"This is very exciting. These pictures are a major leap forward for us," he said.

For decades dead giant squid have washed ashore in places like California and Australia. In Norway, when several dead giant squid were found five hundred years ago, they were thought to be a male version of mermaids and were called "mermen." The ancient Greeks also wrote about giant squid.

The giant squid is an invertebrate, or an animal without a backbone. The squid's eyes are very similar to human eyes, and it can release an inky cloud when it is in danger.

"[The giant squid] has been a mystery for a thousand years," said Richard Ellis, author of Monsters of the Sea, a book about real and legendary sea creatures. "Nobody knew what they looked like in the wild. We only saw them dead. These images will open the door to more detailed study of their life."

The researchers announced their find in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a British science journal.


In Search of Giant Squid
Imagine that you're a fisherman, and a giant creature wraps a tentacle around your boat. Then it vanishes beneath the ocean's surface. Is it any wonder the giant squid captured the imagination of fishermen and ocean-gazers for hundreds of years? Read myths and facts about the giant squid at this NASA Web site.

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