Giant Squid

28 September, 2008

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 dissecting a Giant Squid

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

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

The Giant Squid on display at Melbourne Museum

A young girl examining the Giant Squid in the Marine Life exhibition at Melbourne Museum.
Photographer: Benjamin Healley / Source: Museum Victoria

Comments (10)

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Juan Santos 21 May, 2010 01:25
Wow that is big but big Blooper
syomayra marie del castillo 23 January, 2011 01:49
how big can those squids grow?how long can they live?
jahira montez 26 January, 2011 03:47
is this the first giant squid that you've encounterd or have there been more encounters with other giant squids? Also have there been any records of encounters with other giant squids bigger than this one?
Discovery Centre 26 January, 2011 09:26
Hi Syomayra - as the text says, these squid can reach 15 metres in length. However, we know so little about them that we don't really know how long they live.
Discovery Centre 28 January, 2011 13:35

Hi Jahira

Encounters with live giant squid are actually very rare, the animals are almost always dead when they are seen by humans. Our Museum does have other giant squid material as well as this one  in the dissection video; for example there is a giant squid displayed in Melbourne Museum's Marine Life exhibition

lucia ceballos 29 January, 2011 03:34
how come squids are always caught in boat prepelars or just always found dead?
laura montez 1 February, 2011 03:32
is this a female or a male squid?
Discovery Centre 2 February, 2011 12:26
Hi Lucia - I've had a chat with our expert on Giant Squid, and as far as we know there haven't been any instances of these being caught in propellers. Humans generally only encounter these animals when they are dead, as the squid live at great depths in the oceans. They are only found at the surface when they have died and their body has naturally floated to the ocean's surface, or when they have been inadvertently snagged in something like a trawling net - this process generally hampers their abilty to respire, and therefore they are most often dead by the time they reach the surface.
Discovery Centre 2 February, 2011 13:30
Hi Laura - the squid that was dissected was a female, but the specimen that is on display in the Marine Life exhibition is in fact a composite of a few individuals, probably a mix of both male and female
emilio ramirez 5 February, 2011 03:46
me and my girlfiend adriana were wondering does the squid reproduce on it's own?
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