Architeuthis – what we know today
International research teams are trying to locate and videotape a giant squid in its natural habitat.
A Japanese team scored a first success when it was able to attract a specimen with bait and film it for several minutes in July 2012. The animal was just three meters long and lacked both tentacles that squids typically use for grabbing their prey. According to estimates, squids can grow to lengths of over ten meters, but scientists have determined values between 13 and 16 meters. Until now, size has been difficult to determine because only dead specimens have been measured. Since squids are mollusks, such measurements do not allow for a precise estimate of live size.
Squids are related to mussels and snails, but have their hard shell on the inside, not the outside. Their most noteworthy feature is a sharp, powerful beak at the orifice that shreds the prey. Behind the beak, which is located at the center of the arms, is a tongue-like organ that has teeth to further break down and pull in food. Giant squids feed on smaller squids and deep-sea fish. Little is known about these deep-sea creatures to this day and we only have vague information about their life expectancy, reproduction, and defense against their most important natural enemies, sperm whales. Based on the Japanese video footage, even the assumption that giant squids are ambush predators like the octopuses they are related to is no longer certain.
Giant squids have enormous eyes, which are among the largest seen in the animal world. Only colossal squids have even larger eyes, although they are shorter with a larger head. Giant squid eyes have the diameter of a volleyball and are extremely light-sensitive to allow for survival in the darkness of the deep sea.
The animal's organs are located in a sac behind the head with the eyes. A funnel-shaped multifunction organ on the underside is of great fascination. Squids use it to exhale, spray ink, discharge food waste or to generate a strong water jet to help with a quick get-away.
The squid family includes some 500 species, ranging from tiny creatures with a size of 2.5 cm to Architeuthis. Cephalopods have lived in the oceans for over 500 million years.
After the first images from Japan, the Lula1000 will now attempt to observe an adult giant squid in its natural habitat. This includes exploring the entire underwater sea world, since only fractions of the deep sea have been researched so far. If we knew as much about Africa as we do about the deep sea, we would probably have no idea what an elephant looks like.