Rare giant squid washed up in Australia

CANBERRA (Reuters) - One of the largest giant squid ever found has washed up on a remote Australian beach, sparking a race against time by scientists to examine the rarely seen deep-ocean creature.

The squid, the mantle or main body of which measured two-meters (6.5 feet) long, was found by a walker late on Tuesday on Ocean Beach, near Strahan, on the western coast of island state Tasmania.

“It’s a whopper,” Tasmanian Museum senior curator Genefor Walker-Smith told local media on Wednesday. “The main mantle is about one meter across and its total length is about eight meters.”

Scientists would take samples from the creature, identified by state parks officials as an Architeuthis, which can grow to more than 10 meters (33 feet) in length and weigh more than 275 kilograms (606 pounds). The Tasmanian animal was 250 kg, Pemberton said.

The tentacles had been badly damaged, so the overall length of the animal could not be determined, a Tasmania Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman said. Park rangers had moved the remains from the water.

Giant squid, once believed to be mythical despite occasional sightings by mariners, feed on fish and other squid. Last year, fishermen off the Falkland Islands caught a complete animal measuring 8.62 meters.

Scientists believe giant squid usually live at ocean depths of between 200-700 meters (660-2,300 ft), relying in part on volleyball-sized eyes, the largest in the animal kingdom.

Scientists said giant squid gathered along Australia’s continental shelf in cold mid-winter waters to feed on Grenadier fish. The squid were in turn hunted by sperm whales migrating north from the Southern Ocean.

Japanese ocean researchers captured the first ever pictures of a live giant squid in September 2004 off Japan’s Ogasawara Islands at a depth of 900 meters.