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Everything I know about giant squid I learned from their scant remains washed up on shore

January 12, 2010

Archi as Ahab

Oh, Architeuthis! Oh, second largest of all earth’s invertebrates, yet first in my heart! You deep water wraith, you dark-sea cipher, you marine mysterioso. Any meaningful question you could pose about them – how deep do they dive, what do they eat, how do they get it on – is met by a big shrug idunno, because, really, no one knows.

These giant squid, they are the Garbo of the deep. Huge, up to 43 feet from mantle head to tentacle tip, yet, except famously twice, never witnessed alive. They are a puzzle, assembled from decaying remains brought up in fishing nets, sperm whale bellies, churned & washed up on shore. An opaque inference.

Capturing on film or video a live adult had become a fullblown obsession among a subset of cephalopodists. On September 20, 2004, a research vessel that had spent 2 years on the case finally brought in the first documentary evidence of a living, swimming, hunting giant squid. Over 500 photos were taken of the angry beast, its tentacle caught in the lure, before it finally broke free.

All this is just a prelude to say holy crap! fuck a giant squid at your own damn peril!

Squid actually have an impressive prehensile penis, rather than the subtle and erotic hectocotylus of most other cephalopods. This has been described as high-pressure firehose. A violent payload delivery system. But where do they put the sperm?

Again, evidence is scant, but it looks like the males make a wily effort to inject a load wherever they can on a female’s arm. Arm! Really, I don’t know why! Don’t ask! But some washed up ladies seemed to have the deposits in these locations.

It’s probably not a welcome gift – I mean, an huge injected spermload right in the arm? Which is probably why the long penis is needed, to keep safe distance and avoid angry & bigger girl squid from cutting the damn thing off.

But the scary thing is that in the thick of attempted sperm-injections, probably at high speed, deep sea, thrashing about, the males just may end up injecting themselves. This is probably fatal. Again, washed up carcasses tell this thin tale.

And yes, sperm whales do love them some tasty giant squid. Nom nom nom.

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