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Do Giant Squids Really Exist?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 21, 2024
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The giant squid has been an enduring mythological creature among sailors for centuries. Many reports throughout history have documented encounters between these animals and boats, and several specimens were found beached on the shores of an assortment of nations. In addition to this evidence, Japanese researchers filmed a live one in its natural habitat in 2004, confirming, to the delight of many, that it is an actual living animal. Not only that, but another species of squid, the colossal squid, gets even bigger.

There are eight individual squid species in the genus Architeuthis, which is in the family Architeuthidae. It is believed that giant squid can reach lengths of up to 46 feet (about 14 meters), placing them among the largest animals on Earth. The huge animals are comparatively lightweight for their size, because the bulk of their length is taken up by trailing tentacles. The ocean-dwelling creatures are believed to have the largest eye of any animal on Earth, measuring 1 foot (about 30 centimeters) across in an adult specimen.

Colossal squid, known as Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, can get even larger. It has movable grappling hooks on its tentacles, rather than suckers like its slightly smaller cousin. The colossal squid also has a larger mantle, the protective casing that covers the body of the animal, making it stouter and heavier than the giant squid.

Both types of squid are very muscular and feed on a wide range of other animals in the ocean. Because of their formidable size and strength, they have very few natural predators. Both sperm whales and sleeper sharks appear to eat them, judging from evidence found in the digestive tract of both animals. The squid does not go down without a fight, however, and sperm whales with suction cup scars have been seen.

Because it is an elusive animal, documentation of the giant squid alive is very rare. The Japanese researchers who released video in 2004 took several years to accumulate their data, focusing on a region where sperm whales congregated in the hopes of catching a live squid on camera. Most of the specimens that have been studied have washed up on shore in various parts of the world, suggesting that the animal can be found in all the world's oceans. Some have also been caught by fishing boats and turned over to scientists for study.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do giant squids really exist?

Yes, giant squids are not mythical creatures; they are real. They were once elusive to scientists, but numerous specimens have been found, and evidence of their existence is well-documented. The largest recorded giant squid was 43 feet long, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

How big can giant squids get?

Giant squids can grow to impressive sizes, with the largest specimens measuring up to 43 feet in length. However, most giant squids are around 33 feet long. Their size is attributed to deep-sea gigantism, a phenomenon where deep-sea dwellers grow larger than their shallow-water relatives.

Where do giant squids live?

Giant squids inhabit the deep ocean, typically at depths ranging from 300 to 1000 meters. They are found in all of the world's oceans, but they tend to prefer the cold waters of the North Atlantic and the deep Pacific around Japan, according to marine biologists' observations.

How do scientists study giant squids?

Studying giant squids is challenging due to their deep-sea habitat. Scientists rely on deep-sea submersibles, remote-operated vehicles (ROVs), and camera traps to observe them in their natural environment. Specimens that wash ashore or are accidentally caught by fishermen also provide valuable information for research.

What do giant squids eat?

Giant squids are formidable predators, feeding on deep-sea fish and other squids. They use their two long feeding tentacles to snatch prey, which is then consumed using their beak-like mouths. Their diet reflects their role as apex predators in the deep-sea ecosystem.

Have there been any recent discoveries about giant squids?

Recent discoveries about giant squids include the first-ever footage of a live giant squid in its natural habitat, captured in 2012. Scientists continue to study their genetics and behavior to understand more about their life cycle and reproduction. Ongoing research aims to uncover the mysteries of these enigmatic creatures.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a AllThingsNature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By cakes18 — On Apr 07, 2011

As a child I was obsessed with giant squids and was convinced I'd find one in the murky waters of the English Channel, I was always disappointed (and relieved) when I came back empty handed.

For creatures that are so deep in the abyss, what reasons would they have had for attacking ships back in the times of sail and cannon?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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