Giant Squid Found in Atlantic Ocean

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on April 27th, 2007

It must be Seafood Friday! First we have news of the Giant Squid Museum exhibit, then the new anglerfish find, and now this.

Atlantic Ocean Giant Squid

What Have We Here? A researcher at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla., examines a 7-foot squid sent to the lab recently.
(Photo Courtesy of Mote Marine Laboratory)

Some Squid: Big blob found off Key West is turned over to researchers

Scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla., are entangled in an identity crisis. Exactly what is this gelatinous blob, and where did it come from?

One thing is certain. The marine creature on a slab at the lab is a giant squid. But researchers are still trying to figure out how it got to the Atlantic.

Debi Ingrao, a mollusk expert and senior biologist at Mote, worked with squid experts from the Smithsonian Institute to tentatively identify it as an Asperoteuthis acanthoderma. Their theory comes from an examination of such characteristics as its sucker rings, body composition, color and beak.

That identification is not 100 percent certain yet, and scientists from the two organizations will work together to confirm its identity.

The giant squid was found recently in waters south of Key West by a fisherman who packed it on ice and sent it to Mote, one of the country’s leading marine-research centers.

The find comes on the heels of a similar, more stunning discovery in Antarctica’s Ross Sea. Fishermen caught what is believed to be the world’s largest known squid, a colossal, 30-foot creature weighing nearly half a ton and having eyes the size of basketballs. That find made international headlines.

The Mote squid measures about 7 feet long but is missing its feeding tentacles and part of the fin and tail. If its tentacles were intact, it would be twice as long.

Still, the partial squid can reveal much about how these mysterious animals live and feed, and details about their environment.

“Squids are unique,” Ingrao said. “Because they live in such deep water, it’s unusual to get specimens.”

Scientists want to study squids for another reason. They hope to learn more about their nervous systems. Squids have complex brains and among the largest nerve ganglion in the animal kingdom. By better understanding these nerve clusters, researchers might find clues to treating diseases within the nervous systems of people.

But even when scientists have a rare specimen from the deep, it rarely stays pristine for long. A squid quickly loses its internal water and deteriorates, and the skin darkens when exposed to air. Underwater, the gelatinous layer of skin is translucent, exposing internal organs and arteries.

If the squid does turn out to be a sample of Asperoteuthis acanthoderma, this will be the first time one has been found in the Atlantic.

It is a deep-water squid species previously reported in Okinawa and Hawaii and in seas south of the Phillippines.

“It could have been here all along and it’s never been identified before,” said a spokeswoman at Mote. One reason for the discovery may be that fishermen went deeper than they previously had; another may be that it drifted here on ocean currents and is far from its home.

Either way, it is an unusual discovery and is likely to be sent to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

“This is the first time this species has been found in the Atlantic, so it’s important to have it in the national museum,” Ingrao said.Winston-Salem Journal

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad, Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.

12 Responses to “Giant Squid Found in Atlantic Ocean”

  1. mystery_man responds:

    This is an absolutely fascinating find. It makes me wonder if the supposed range of the creature will have to be rethought. Very interesting to get glimpses into this little known, elusive creature.

  2. Bob Michaels responds:

    There have authenticated Giant Squid sightings & strandings off Newfoundland.

    In 1952 in the Florida Keys, 1978 Ft Lauderdale Fla, 1980 plum Island Mass, 1969 east of Lake Worth Fla.

  3. Mnynames responds:

    Because the linking of the North American and South American landmasses is a comparatively recent geological event, this little guy could represent a population of Pacific squid isolated by the event and maintaining themselves for several millennia. Seems more plausible than a wayward specimen or a much wider range. Just my 2 cents…

  4. Atticus responds:

    I agree with Mystery Man.

    We don’t know much of these creatures and their habits.They may have a range entending farther than we initially thought.

  5. fuzzy responds:

    Could have come through the Panama Canal with a ship.

  6. MattBille responds:

    The Newfoundland/Labrador squid were the giant squid Architeuthis. This is interesting, not just because it’s a fairly large squid, but because it’s so far from it’s only known habitat. It’s a good reminder of how much we still have to learn about marine life.

  7. springheeledjack responds:

    Also says a lot about how much we do not know about the ocean and its inhabitants…could be all kinds of things lurking below that we have no idea about…much bigger things that roam and are as yet undetected.

    Got to like the squid population though…

  8. youcantryreachingme responds:

    fuzzy – I agree. And it may have entered a ship’s ballast as a juvenile, to be released on the other side, where it has since grown up only to be collected and examined.

    Any number of possible explanations!

    No less interesting 🙂

  9. Mnynames responds:

    That’d have to be one darned unlucky squid, then- Sucked into a ballast tank, living on scraps in total darkness for who knows how long, shot out into strange waters full of unknown dangers, then collected and killed!

    I guess I’d prefer to think he was an unwary native…

  10. youcantryreachingme responds:

    Ironically, I just received a news article talking exactly about ballast being the vehicle for invasive marine species.

    Apparently, although “recognized as an ongoing, world-wide problem”, the phenomenon is not well studied with the green mussel being one exception.

    In addition, “biological fouling on boat bottoms” provides another “safe haven for marine invasive species”.

  11. mystery_man responds:

    Youcantryreachingme- I don’t know much about boats and ballasts, but it seems to me that it is a big jump from mussels to a giant squid. Of course a corpse that somehow floated up from the squid’s deep sea habitat could be scooped up by a boat, but would a giant squid physically be able to get into a ballast that easily? This is not a mussel we are talking about or a small fish. It is a 14 foot long (if it still had its tentacles) squid! Is that feasible?

  12. mystery_man responds:

    By the way, was this squid alive when it was found? It is hard to tell from the article whether the fisherman found it alive or dead. If it was alive, then as Mnynames said it just seems unlikely to me that a giant squid would have come far enough up to the surface to be sucked into a ballast tank, then survived the journey, then made the trip in good enough condition to keep on living. Of course it could have been in bad shape from the ordeal if it was found close enough to the surface for a fisherman to find it, but I wonder just how plausible this scenario is.

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