8 weird (and scary) facts about the giant squid
The deepest and darkest parts of the ocean are home to some of the strangest and most alien-like creatures on Earth. There are bioluminescent jellyfish that flash and glow vibrant colours, anglerfish that have an extended glowing growth that lures in prey to be devoured in its spindly jaws and an incredibly rare, colossal, tentacled creature – the giant squid. Here are eight weird and pretty creepy facts about the giant squid that hunts in the murky depths.
1. They can grow to a massive 40 feet in length
Giant squid (also known by their rather fancy Latin name Architeuthis Dux) are an example of deep-sea gigantism, which is a strange phenomenon where creatures of the deepest ocean grow to a much larger size than in shallow waters. Scientists have theories about what causes this massive growth but there is no definitive answer yet. Specimens of the creature have been found to grow to the huge length of 40 feet, which is as long as three cars end-to-end or as long as a city bus. What a scary thing to imagine!
2. They can regenerate their tentacles
Much in the same way that lizards can re-grow lost limbs, scientists who have been observing the deep-sea creatures think that a giant squid can regenerate a tentacle after being attacked by a sperm whale, the only creature that preys on these sea-monsters. Researchers have found specimens washed ashore with tentacles that have been regrown – but they aren’t the only sea creature that can do this, other species of squid and octopus can also perform this almost-magical feat.
3. Giant squid are real-life mythical sea monsters
With their strange colouring, colossal staring eye – which is as large as a dinner plate – and writhing mass of tentacles, it’s easy to see how legends of sea monsters such as the Kraken could have started from sailors witnessing one of these creatures in shallower waters. But don’t worry if you’re ever at sea: the stories of giant squid destroying ships and drowning sailors are definitely the stuff of myth.
4. Giant squid are not only hunters – they’re also cannibals
Only one animal apart from the sperm whale preys upon the giant squid, and that’s the giant squid itself! In the stomach contents of specimens that have been stranded ashore or caught, scientists have found the remains of other giant squid, which indicates that they are not afraid of turning to cannibalism when they need to. Unfortunately, we’ve never been able to capture it on video, but the sight of two giant squid locked in a ferocious battle would be pretty cool to watch.
5. Giant squid have three hearts
With such a gargantuan body and equally massive gills needed to get enough oxygen to survive, pumping blood around the squid’s body is a tough feat. To manage this, a giant squid one-ups Doctor Who, and has three hearts – one large one in the middle and two in the gills. Without meaning to sound like a conspiracy theorist, this might be proof that they are in fact alien creatures…
6. They have beaks like a bird of prey
Giant squid are ferocious hunters, but what you might not know is that, underneath their tentacles, giant squid have a sharp beak that they use to tear apart prey such as jellyfish and smaller species of squid. Other types of squid and octopus also have a parrot-like beak that makes them a formidable sea-floor predator (and also makes them a little bit scary).
7. Their brains are shaped like a donut
Because the giant squid’s oesophagus (the tube where food travels from the beak to the stomach) is smack bang in the middle of the animal’s long tubular body. But this presents a problem – a sophisticated predator needs a large brain to hunt efficiently and keep one step ahead of its prey, but where can it go? To quote Jurassic Park, life finds a way. The brain of the giant squid is in fact, donut shaped to allow the digestive system to go through it
8. No one knows how big they can grow
It is so hard to explore the deepest parts of the ocean because of the insane pressure that can crush metal like a paper cup – as mentioned earlier, scientists have found specimens measuring up to 27 metres (88 feet) in length, but the fact that humankind knows more about the solar system than we do about the bottom of the ocean. This means that, whilst scientists can make educated guesses about how big a giant squid can grow to, nobody knows for sure…