April 18, 2024

Hankering for History

Hanker: To have a strong, often restless desire, in this case for–you guessed it–history!

Giant, Freaking Squids….in History!

3 min read
Giant Squid

Yes, squids. On this day (Sept 30th), in 2004, researchers from the National Science Museum of Japan and the Ogasawara Whale Watching Association took 556 photographs of a giant squid in its natural habitat. This elusive animal had never had its picture taken alive, in its natural habitat before this day. I mean, they only had to go six-hundred miles off the coast of Tokyo and drop this camera, on a lure, down three-thousand feet, no biggie…right? See one of the pics below.

Giant Squid

Great, so history has been made. Not only did the scientist gain great insight from seeing this animal in the wild, but in the squids attempt to break free from the lure it left behind an 18 ft tentacle. So you see, there is definitely a reason for this animal to fall under the genre of giant squid. Giant squid isn’t just a descriptive term, there is actually a genus Architeuthis, which is the giant squid family. This giant squid family consist of eight species. As for the giant squid description term, it fits too. The estimated size of a member of this family is 43 ft for females and 33 ft for males.

Wait..this sounds like science, not history. What’s the deal?

You are right.

(What is wrong with me?…less than a month in a Biology class and I am already tailoring my post to science. Ugh…genus and species…)

Don’t fret! There is a history lesson here as well. So why is the photographing of this cagey beast such a big deal? This animal, why not as elusive as the Loch Ness Monster, has been reported throughout history dating back to the 4th century BCE. During this time period, Aristotle described the giant squids and made a scientific distinction between that of normal sized squids.

of the calamaries, the so-called teuthus is much bigger that the teuthis; for teuthi [plural of teuthus] have been found as much as five ells long.

Alecton and the Giant Squid
Drawing of the Alecton attempting to catch the Giant Squid, in 1861.

In Natural History, written by Pliny the Elder, the giant squid is described in great detail in this 1st century CE text. It is described as having the head “as big as a cask”, arms 30 feet (9.1 m) long, and carcass weighing 700 pounds (320 kg). [1] [2]

Throughout the ages, references to this ginormous creature were told and retold by fisherman and sea travelers. In 1861, the French gunboat Alecton secured a portion of a giant squid. With this came many “sightings.” There was a lot of giant squid activity reported in the late 19th century around the Newfoundland area. Several giant squids washed up on shore, squids were often sighted on voyages, and there were even some giant squid attacks.

Even though scientist have been familiar with this genus of squid for thousands of years, it is interesting to me how we are still learning about these animals. It just goes to show you that history will always be open for change, as is science.

[1] http://cryptozoo.monstrous.com/history_of_sightings.htm#ixzz27y5dEXPS

[2] http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Giant_squid

1 thought on “Giant, Freaking Squids….in History!

  1. And speaking of Science, don’t forget that the Hodgkin & Huxley were able to understand how neuronal action potentials work thanks to the giant axon of a giant squid (if I am not wrong it was so big people believed for the longest time it was a blood vessel not an axon)!

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