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All About the Architeuthis: The Giant Squid


The Giant Squid is an elusive creature that has captured the imaginations of people for centuries. Despite being one of the largest creatures in existence, it is still not very well understood.

The Giant Squid has been a staple of legends and mythical tales for centuries. In Greek mythology, Architeuthis played the part of both the monster Scylla and the ship-devouring whirlpool Charybdis. In Norse mythology, Jormungandr was a sea serpent so large that it wrapped around the world with its tail in its mouth. In the Bible, the sea creature Leviathan is described as a serpent-like beast that was cast into Hell during Judgement Day (Book of Revelation).

In many other cultures and mythologies, Giant Squids are thought to be symbols of power, fertility, and other similar qualities. With such impressive size and alien appearance, it isn't surprising that these animals have inspired legends.

No matter what these mythologies say, the fact that they exist in the real world is awesome enough. Together, let's learn more about the Architeuthis!

Description and Appearance

The scientific name for the squid is Architeuthis dux. It belongs to a group known as cephalopods, which are characterized by a distinct head and a large body. Other well-known cephalopods include octopuses, cuttlefish, and nautiloids. Cephalopods are considered to be the most intelligent invertebrates (animals without backbones) in existence, which makes the Giant Squid even more intriguing.

The largest known eyes in existence belong to an Architeuthis. They can be 9 inches across, which is larger than the eye of a great white shark!

To prove it to you, here’s Gage Beasley’s rendition of the Giant Squid—the Architeuthis Giant Squid Soft Stuffed Plush Toy. I mean, just look at those eyes! If it doesn’t already look straight into your soul, I don’t know what will.

Gage Beasley’s Architeuthis Giant Squid Soft Stuffed Plush Toy

Architeuthis dux has light-producing organs called photophores in their skin that they use to communicate with each other when it is dark. These lights also serve as camouflage, creating an anti-predator light when a predator is nearby.

Architeuthis dux can grow to be the largest invertebrate in existence, with specimens up to 60 feet long having been found. That means that their tentacles alone are between 20-30 feet! For comparison, the average human is around five feet tall. It is difficult to determine the weight of these creatures because they are comprised mostly of water. Based on their length, though, the Giant Squid likely weighs around a ton.

 

Diet

The Giant Squid feeds on fish, crustaceans, and other squids. They use their sharp beaks to cut up their prey before they swallow it whole, as cephalopods don't have chewing mouthparts. They can also turn their stomachs inside out and use them as weapons to attack predators.

Reproduction

The mating rituals for this creature are largely unknown due to the lack of study done on it in the wild, but we do know that they reproduce much like other cephalopods. Females lay eggs that hatch into planktonic paralarvae. Many of the paralarvae will die, but some will grow into adulthood.

Giant Squids have a similar life cycle to most cephalopods. The females lay their eggs, and the males fertilize them before dying shortly after mating. The female then attaches her thousands of eggs onto a suitable sheltered surface using an adhesive substance from her mouth. She guards these until they hatch, but usually dies during this time from stress, starvation, or disease. The eggs hatch as planktonic paralarvae and drift in the open sea for several months before growing large enough to begin taking on a more adult form.

Cephalopods are recognized as some of the most intelligent creatures in the world, so it is no surprise that they would have a complex mating ritual. The pair begin by swimming towards each other, and then the male wraps his tentacles around the female so that their funnel ends are close together, allowing for sperm transfer. This process can last from one to six hours before the males die of exhaustion or are eaten by the larger females.

Giant Squids have been found with sperm packets embedded in their arms, showing that the males use these appendages to hold females during mating.

Distribution and Conservation Status

The Giant Squid is difficult (and expensive!) to study in the wild due to its large size, so most information about it comes from carcasses that have washed ashore or been pulled up in fishermen's nets. It is believed that they inhabit the deep oceans, between 600 and 1,200 meters below the surface. They are found in most of the world's temperate oceans, including around New Zealand, Australia, California, Alaska, Europe, Japan, and even Korea.

Because Architeuthis dux is poorly studied, the conservation status of this creature is unknown. However, it is believed that deep-ocean dwelling animals such as the Giant Squid are not heavily fished by humans due to their inaccessibility and lack of commercial value. It is classified as Data Deficient on the IUCN Red List.

However, that does not mean that people have never hunted them or affected populations. One example of this is when the Giant Squid was targeted by Japanese whalers in New Zealand waters in 1987 and 1988 when they killed an estimated 40 animals. The meat from these animals was processed into animal food like pet treats and bait for fish farms.

Final Thoughts

The Giant Squid is one of the most mysterious, awe-inspiring creatures in the ocean. It is thought that they are intelligent enough to use tools, with studies showing that they will hold onto large, sturdy objects while using smaller tentacles to sense their environment. This ties into their symbiotic relationship with Vampyroteuthis infernalis, which will hide on the larger squid's arms while it is using them as a tool.

Although there isn't a lot of information about this animal, what we do know about its deep-ocean habitat and natural lifespan means that humans pose very little threat to their survival. As long as we continue our conservation efforts for other deep-water animals, the Giant Squid should remain safe from extinction.

The Giant Squid may only be a legend to many humans, but it is very real and worthy of our protection.

Cheers!

~GB


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