Who better to launch a search for the giant squid than noted "chief
teuthologists" themselves. Teuthologists are scientists who study an
animal group called cephalopods. Cephalopods are ancient invertebrate
animals and can be traced back about 450 million years to a time when
sea organisms dominated the Earth. Squid ancestors are known to have
appeared about 400 million years ago, earlier than the first fish ever
appeared in the ocean.
Squid experts have dissected many washed-up giant squid
carcasses and they have studied many of its cephalopod relatives in
order to make educated guesses about this elusive creature. But in
order for their studies to be complete, they need to find a live giant
That goal has seen a few deep-sea expeditions in the past
few years, but scientists have yet to see this huge, 10-arm sea monster
swimming past their underwater cameras.
Because scientists know that sperm whales eat squid, they
came to the natural conclusion that if they followed the sperm whales
they would find the "Chief." In 1996, a team of scientists and
researchers traveled to the Azores Islands. They cleverly attached
cameras to sperm whales, hoping that they would catch a live battle
between squid and sperm whale, but this did not happen.
They went out on another hunt in February and March of
1997. This time, the team embarked on a voyage to Kaikoura Canyon, an
underwater canyon, off New Zealand. In addition to using cameras on
sperm whales, researchers used two other methods. They sent out an
unmanned autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) that looked like a
miniature whale with a camera tucked in front. And they employed
another camera called a "ropecam," something like a video camera on a
fishing line complete with its own fish bait, in hopes of luring hungry
squid. Even with all of this, they did not catch a glimpse of the big
Undaunted, scientists took up the challenge once more.
They returned to the Kaikoura Canyon in February and March of 1999, but
the giant squid, if this is indeed where they live, did not show
themselves to the cameras.
Scientists have made two trips to this area of New
Zealand because it's believed that this is one of the most likely
places for giant squids to be found. In the first place, a high
concentration of sperm whales, the giant squid's chief predator occurs
here, and a vast, relatively unexplored underwater geology means that
there may be endless nooks and crannies in which giant squid may hide.
This animal has been successful at never letting a camera take a
picture of it.
Scholars assume that because few giant squid have ever
been caught in the deep-sea nets cast by commercial fisherman, they
must reside in areas that are difficult for humans to enter.
Continental slopes and deep canyons are logical areas in which giant
squid may reside.
Kaikoura Canyon is a perfect example of both. Just a mile
from land, the ocean drops off dramatically to 3,300 feet (1,000
meters) deep to form a wall of the canyon. Then the trenches descend as
deep as 30,000 FEET (6.7 km) below sea level.
But scientists still don't know at what depth the squid
reside. Some reports say that giant squid have been captured in
fisherman's nets that were trawling in mid-waters. Yet reports from
scientists who have examined the stomach contents of sharks or whales
say there is evidence that giant squid are most likely found near the
very bottom because this is where these animals are known to hunt for
The verdict is still out and may remain so until someone
can sight these shy creatures. Scientists remain hopeful that one of
their future voyages to the deep, dark abyss will eventually reveal a
sneak peak at the underwater lair of the chief squid.
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