The museum’s collection of marine invertebrates (animals without backbones) contains five examples of the biggest invertebrate on Earth: the Giant Squid.
These huge, rarely encountered animals can be over 15 metres long. They live in the dark, cold deep sea in all oceans of the world, including the waters off southern Australia. The museum’s specimens were captured between 1996 and 2002 by commercial fishermen in deep-water trawls in Bass Strait, off Portland and off Tasmania. They were caught in depths between 500 and 800 metres.
The Giant Squid is recognised by its two extremely long feeding tentacles, the tips of which bear many sharp-toothed suckers, and its special small suckers with corresponding bumps along the feeding tentacle shafts. The suckers and bumps act like press-studs and allow the tentacles to be zipped together to become one long, snapping claw.
Live Giant Squid have never been observed in their natural habitat. Their flesh is full of pockets of ammonia fluid that is lighter than seawater. These fluid pouches cancel out the weight of the muscles and allow the animal to hang in the water without using energy. The Giant Squid probably uses its huge eyes to spot animals that carelessly give off light, and then it attacks with the long feeding tentacles.
All around the world, film crews are trying to be the first to film a live Giant Squid in the wild, spending millions of dollars on submarines and special cameras, and even attaching cameras to the heads of sperm whales, hoping the whales will do the filming when they go hunting the squid.