September 14, 2008

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1089 Pound Colossal Squid Thawed

April 29, 2008

Marine scientists in New Zealand are thawing the corpse of the largest squid ever caught in an attempt to understand of one of the ocean’s creatures of mystery.

Since no one has ever seen a living, full-grown colossal squid in its natural habitat, and scientists hope the examination of the 26-foot long, 1,089-pound colossal squid scheduled to start, will help scientists understand how the creatures live. The thawing and examination are being broadcast live on the Internet.

Caught accidentally by fishermen in February 2007 while catching Patagonian toothfish, which are sold under the name Chilean sea bass, the squid was removed from its freezer Monday and put into a tank filled with saline solution. To slow the thawing process down in order to not allow the outer flesh to rot, ice was added to the tank, Carol Diebel reported. Diebel is the director of natural environment at New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa Tongarewa.

After it is thawed, scientists will examine the squid’s anatomical features, remove the stomach, beak and other mouth parts, take tissue samples for DNA analysis and determine its sex, Diebel said.

The squid is believed to be the largest specimen of the rare deep-water species Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, or colossal squid, ever caught. Colossal squid can grow up to 46 feet long, descend to 6,500 feet into the ocean and are considered aggressive hunters.

The squid was eating a hooked toothfish when it was hauled from the deep. Recognizing it as a rare find, the fishermen froze the squid on their vessel to preserve it. The national museum, Te Papa Tongarewa, later took possession of it.

The previous largest colossal squid ever found was a 660 pound female squid discovered in 2003, the first ever caught.

Researchers plan to eventually put the squid on display in a 1,800 gallon tank of formaldehyde at the museum in the capital, Wellington.