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Monsters of the Ocean: The Elusive Giant Squid

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The elusive giant squid, known to science as Architeuthis dux, is a true sea monster. Growing up to 16 meters long with ten arms and eyes almost half a meter in diameter; it is one of the world's largest animals and the largest known invertebrate. However, because they live at such great ocean depths, very little is known about this mysterious species as they have never been studied in the wild. Expeditions spend years searching for these elusive creatures, but they have only been spotted very rarely. Most of what we know about these creatures comes from the bodies of dead squids that have washed ashore or been pulled up in fishermen's nets.

One thing we know for certain is that these animals are carnivores, and will eat just about anything they can catch. During World War II, stories from the survivors of sunken ships tell of shipmates being eaten by these creatures in the dark of the night; there have even been reports of giant squid reaching out of the water and pulling men off small boats. None of these reports have been officially verified, but they paint a daunting picture of a powerful predator.

The squid's eight long tentacles have strong suction cups, which they use to hold on to their prey; a sharp, powerful beak finishes off their helpless victim with uncanny efficiency. The giant squid appears to be a favorite meal for the sperm whale; they have been found in the stomachs of dead whales, many of which bore scars from the squid's suction-cupped tentacles.

While scientists are certain that the giant squid lives at a great depth in the ocean, the accurate depth of the water it habituates is unknown; however, data from trawled specimens and sperm whale diving behavior suggest it spans a large range of depths, possibly between 300 and 1000 meters.

*The article was published in the PSC Newslertter, Summer 2012 issue.

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