Colossal squid examined by New Zealand scientists

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - A colossal squid caught from deep Antarctic waters was defrosted on Wednesday by New Zealand scientists keen to discover more about the little-known giant predator.

The 8 meter long (26 feet) colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni), which weighs about 495 kg (1,089 pounds) is the largest and best preserved adult colossal squid to be caught.

It has been on ice for over a year after being caught by a deep-sea fishing boat.

The squid has hundreds of sharp hooks on its arms as well as a large and powerful beak which could easily snap the backbone of a fish up to two meters long, said Dr Steve O’Shea, a scientist from the Auckland University of Technology.

“It’s endowed with a killer arsenal: the hooks, the beak, everything about it,” O’Shea said.

Judging by the size of squid beaks found in the stomachs of sperm whales relative to the size of the specimen caught, colossal squids could grow up to 12 meters (36 feet) and weigh 750 kilograms (1,650 pounds), O’Shea said.

The specimen has eyes that are 27 centimeters (10.6 inches) in diameter, the first time intact eyes have been recovered on a colossal squid.

The squid will be examined, measured and tested before being preserved for display at New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa, later this year.

O’Shea is hopeful the examination will teach them a lot more about the species, which lives at a depth of about 2,000 meters between Antarctica and as far north as the coast of New Zealand.

The squid was caught in February 2007 by long-line fisherman near in the Ross Sea near Antarctica, and was frozen on the ship before being donated to the museum.

The scientists will have about 6-8 hours to examine the squid before it begins to decay. It will be preserved in formalin, and stored in a purpose-built tank for display.

Reporting by Adrian Bathgate; Editing by David Fox