The giant squid (genus: Architeuthis) is a deep-ocean dwelling squid in the family Architeuthidae, represented by as many as eight species. Giant squid can grow to a tremendous size: recent estimates put the maximum size at 13 metres (43 ft) for females and 10 metres (33 ft) for males from caudal fin to the tip of the two long tentacles (second only to the colossal squid at an estimated 14 metres (46 ft), one of the largest living organisms). The mantle is about 2 metres (6.6 ft) long (more for females, less for males), and the length of the squid excluding its tentacles is about 5 metres (16 ft). There have been claims reported of specimens of 20 metres (66 ft) or more, but no animals of such size have been scientifically documented.
On September 30, 2004, researchers from the National Science Museum of Japan and the Ogasawara Whale Watching Association took the first images of a live giant squid in its natural habitat. Several of the 556 photographs were released a year later. The same team successfully filmed a live adult giant squid for the first time on December 4, 2006.
Like all squid, a giant squid has a mantle (torso), eight arms, and two longer tentacles (the longest known tentacles of any cephalopod). The arms and tentacles account for much of the squid’s great length, making giant squid much lighter than their chief predators, sperm whales. Scientifically documented specimens have masses of hundreds, rather than thousands, of kilograms.
Giant Squid Size
The giant squid is the second largest mollusc and the second largest of all extant invertebrates. It is only exceeded in size by the Colossal Squid, Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, which may have a mantle nearly twice as long. Several extinct cephalopods, such as the Cretaceous vampyromorphid Tusoteuthis, the Cretaceous coleoid Yezoteuthis, and the Ordovician nautiloid Cameroceras may have grown even larger.
Giant squid size, particularly total length, has often been misreported and exaggerated. Reports of specimens reaching and even exceeding 20 metres (66 ft) in length are widespread, but no animals approaching this size have been scientifically documented. According to giant squid expert Dr. Steve O’Shea, such lengths were likely achieved by greatly stretching the two tentacles like elastic bands.
Based on the examination of 130 specimens and of beaks found inside sperm whales, giant squid’s mantles are not known to exceed 2.25 metres (7.4 ft) in length. Including the head and arms, but excluding the tentacles, the length very rarely exceeds 5 metres (16 ft). Maximum total length, when measured relaxed post mortem, is estimated at 13 metres (43 ft) for females and 10 metres (33 ft) for males from caudal fin to the tip of the two long tentacles. Giant squid exhibit reverse sexual dimorphism. Maximum weight is estimated at 275 kilograms (610 lb) for females and 150 kilograms (330 lb) for males.