Question: I watched the science program Catalyst this week on ABC1 and was fascinated by the dissection Giant Squid. I would have loved to have been there when the scientists dissected the squid in the public gallery at the Melbourne Museum.
Dr Mark Norman, Museum Victoria's squid expert, providing some narration during his dissection of the Giant Squid at Melbourne Museum in June 2008.
Photographer: John Augier / Source: Museum Victoria
Where are Giant Squid found? How big can they get? How did the Museum acquire this one? Is it on display now? I was also wondering whether Giant Squid are under threat by the food industry. I imagine they’d be highly prized; you could get a lot of calamari from a Giant Squid.
Answer: Giant Squid live in the cold dark deep sea in all oceans of the world and can grow to 15 metres long. They are rarely encountered and have never been observed in their natural habitat. As such, we know very little about them.
Dr Mark Norman examining a Giant Squid.
Photographer: Rodney Start / Source: Museum Victoria
Museum Victoria has several specimens and they were all captured by commercial fishermen in trawls of depths between 500 and 800 metres in Bass Strait. The Giant Squid that was dissected at the Melbourne Museum in June 2008 was caught in a fishing trawl off Western Victoria. At over 12 metres long and weighing approximately 245 kg, it was the largest Squid that Australian scientists had ever encountered.
The flesh of Giant Squid is not edible; it is full of pockets of ammonia. Ammonia is lighter than seawater. The pouches of ammonia fluid cancel out the weight of the flesh and allow Giant Squid to “hang” in the water without using any energy. Giant Squid are therefore not targeted by fishing trawlers, but sadly they are occasionally caught in the nets.
A video recording of the public dissection of the Giant Squid can be seen on our website. While this specimen is not on display, visitors to Melbourne Museum can view a 10-metre long Giant Squid in the exhibition Marine Life: Exploring our Seas
A young girl examining the Giant Squid in the Marine Life exhibition at Melbourne Museum.
Photographer: Benjamin Healley / Source: Museum Victoria