Japanese Release First Giant Squid Movie
And It's Not a Guy in a Rubber Suit!

Squid's In - and Now It's on Film

from AFP

PARIS - Japanese zoologists have made the first recording of a live giant squid, one of the strangest and most elusive creatures in the world.

The size of a bus, with vast eyes and a querulous beak, Architeuthis has long nourished myth and literature, most memorably in Jules Vernes' 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, in which a squid tried to engulf the submarine Nautilus with its suckered tentacles.

Until now, the only evidence of giant squids was extraordinarily rare - from dead squids that washed up on remote shores or got snagged on a long-line fish hook or from ships' crews who spotted the deep-sea denizen as it made a sortie near the surface.

But almost nothing was known about where and how Architeuthis lives, feeds and reproduces. And, given the problems of getting down to its home in the ocean depths, no-one had ever obtained pictures of a live one.

In 1997 the National Geographic Society attached video cameras by a temporary cord to sperm whales in the hope that this would get pictures of a whale dining on one of the giant cephalopods. In 2003, New Zealand marine biologists ground up some squid gonads, believing that a camera would squirt out the pureed genitals and a passing squid, driven into a sexual frenzy, would then mate with the lens - a project that, some may be relieved to hear, never came to fruition.

The breakthrough has come from Tsunemi Kubodera of the National Science Museum in Tokyo and Kyoichi Mori of the Ogasawara Whale Watching Association. Writing Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Kubodera and Mori describe how they also used sperm whales as a guide.

They set up a special rig to two mesh bags filled with a tempting bait of freshly mashed shrimps. Suspended from floats, the rig was lowered into the water on a nylon line, with flash pictures taken every 30 seconds for the next four to five hours.

At 9:15 am on September 30, 2004, squids as we know them changed forever. At that moment, 2,925 feet down in the Stygian gloom, a 26-foot specimen lunged at the lower bait bag, succeeding only in getting itself impaled on the hook.

For the next four hours, the squid tried to get itself off the hook as the camera snapped away every 30 seconds, gaining not only unprecedented pictures but also precious information about how the squid is able to propel itself.

After a monstrous battle, the squid eventually freed itself, but left behind a giant tentacle on the hook. When the severed limb was brought up to the surface, its huge suckers were still able to grip the boat deck and any fingers that touched them - testimony indeed to the myths of yore, that spoke of monstrous arms that grabbed ships and hauled them to their doom.


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