Home > Biology > Giant and Colossal Squid are frighteningly awesome

Giant and Colossal Squid are frighteningly awesome

I saw a Discovery channel program this weekend about a group of scientists who would get to study the corpse of a colossal squid that was captured and then instantly frozen. Because of this, it was conisdered the most intact specimen ever captured since it had not begun to decay at all, which apparently happens very rapidly.

The first half of the show dealt with the complicated process involved with slowly thawing the squid so that it could be studied. This involved placing the animal into a bath of saltwater that was kept barely above freezing. It ended up thawing over a few days. To pass the time the scientists practiced studying the colossal squid by dissecting a giant squid under the same conditions. As they went along they revealed a number of balls out fascinating things about both species.

To help keep their orientation in the deep ocean, giant and colossal squid have an organ called the statocyst. This is a small fluid filled sac which contains a number of sensory hairs called setae and a small mineral deposit called a statolith. When the squid moves, the inertia of the statolith changes and bumps into the setae which helps orient the animal. Finding the statolith was a major priority for the scienctists, because they can use it to determine the age of the squid, since the mineral accumulates in small rings, much like the rings of a tree. However, the statolith is so small that the only way to count the rings is by using an electron microscope. When the scientist in the program found it in the giant squid he showed it to the camera and it just looked like a sliver of broken glass, slightly larger than a grain of sand.

The other thing that they were furiously looking for in the squid was its brain. Squid’s brains are rather hard to find, because they only weigh an ounce.  Your brain is about eight pounds, and if my maths are correct you can shove 128 squid brains in that eight pounds. No wonder giant squids are mortal enemies with the sperm whale, arguably the dumbest of the whale species. I mean just look at their name, sperm whale.

Anyways, the other crazy thing about the squids brain is that it is shaped like a deliciously small donut. Why is it donut shaped? Because it surrounds the esophagus. If the squid eats something that’s bigger than it’s brain, it can cause brain damage. If this were true in humans, I can’t tell you how many times I would’ve gone all Forrest Gump on y’all by eating something that was too big for my britches, or brain as it were. There was one noticeably uncomfortable time when I swallowed a whole hard boiled egg because I wondered if a chick would burst from my gut, a la Alien.

The main difference between the giant squid and the colossal squid is that the colossal squid  isn’t so much more colossal in terms of length, but in terms of the girth of the mantle. In other words, colossal squid are the Mr. Creosote of the squid family. Their arms are actually shorter than that of the giant squid, but their larger mantles ensure that they weigh more.

In order to compensate for their shorter arms, colossal squid have one other noticeable difference. Giant squid have the tried and true feature of suckers on their arms. To keep the suckers from being too cliche and boring, most of them are covered by sharp ridges of chitin which act like little serrating teeth. I mean, to have a giant squid grab you with it’s arms and hold you in an icky death grip with it’s suckers is shittastically frightening enough, but to then have those suckers rip into and tear your flesh is beyond the realm of conceivable horror.

So what does the colossal squid have to compare with these tendrils of terror? They have suckers like the giant squid, but they also have three inch fucking long hooks. That’s like the claws of a tiger on on a squid. It’s like a goddamn cosmic joke, except instead of being funny, it’s horrifying. To add more horror to the horror, the hokes can swivel, making them much more effective at gripping, holding and shit inducing. If the giant squids arms inspire Human Centipede levels of fear, than the colossal squids arms are like going through the Human Centipede treatment, and then being forced to watch a Sex and the City 2/Eclipse double feature.

There’s an ad that’s been showing recently where a dad is getting his daughter ready for bed. Instead of telling her a bedtime story, he regales all of the interesting science news from the day. The girls imagination takes over and her bedroom becomes an interactive museum of sorts as she “sees” all of the things that her father is telling her about. What does the father choose to tell her daughter about to get her all snuggled and cozy for bed? A giant squid specimen, of course. What kind of fucked up father would do this? “They found this giant sea monster, with 15 foot tentacles with toothed suckers which they use to subdue and kill their prey, eyes as big a soccer ball, and a giant, birdlike beak. Well, sweet dreams, dear. Daddy has to go and put a night shift in at the office in order to pay for all the therapy that you’re going to need as an adult. I’m not going to bother checking your closet for monsters, because I’ve pretty much just convinced you that they do exist. Piss the bed all you want, that’s why the mattress is covered with that plastic sheeting. G’night.”

I honestly can’t wait to do this to my own daughter.

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