It’s supposedly close to 50 feet long, making it much bigger than the average of its species, but is it a giant squid? Indonesian media claims that it is, but there have been more than a few to dispute this description, with experts claiming that the huge carcass found washed up on the shore of Seram Island is actually a beached whale.
The original report comes from the Jakarta Globe, which wrote on Wednesday that a Seram Island man had spotted the giant squid on Tuesday evening. Originally thinking the creature was a stranded boat, the man would later discover that it was something more peculiar — an animal that’s been described as a giant squid by Indonesian press, largely due to the presence of what looked to be tentacles.
The 49-foot-long (15 meters) animal may have already been dead for “at least three days” before it was sighted, and as its carcass was already decaying at the time of the Jakarta Globe report, Seram Island residents have asked Indonesian officials to help them remove the creature’s remains.
According to National Geographic, giant squids measure about 33 feet and weigh 440 pounds on average. As they tend to make their home in the deep seas, it’s been hard for scientists to learn more about these animals, and most of what we know about them is based on sightings of giant squids washed up on beaches. National Geographic’s fact sheet adds that the largest giant squid found measured 59 feet and weighed close to a ton — that’s close to the length of the recently sighted, yet purported giant squid.
Indonesia has helped make the photo of this beached animal go viral, especially with one of its leading publications calling it an actual “giant squid.” But recent reports now claim that the creature was, in fact, a whale – a similarly large animal, but as far as you can get from a squid.
— The Jakarta Globe (@thejakartaglobe) May 12, 2017
Although the National Geographic giant squid fact sheet notes that the largest of its species ever found measured close to 60 feet, such would be an outlier, as Snopes‘ debunking report suggests. And even the world’s largest squid species wouldn’t normally grow as large as the animal found washed up on Seram Island.
“The colossal squid, the precisely named world’s largest squid, is also too small to be the pictured animal, as it only reaches an estimated maximum length of around fourteen meters, or 45 feet.”
Further, the Huffington Post also cited multiple marine experts, who all agreed that the “giant squid” found in Indonesia wasn’t a squid at all. Specifically, it may have been a baleen whale, as Whale and Dolphin Conservation executive director Regina Asmutis-Silvia explained.
“Certain species of baleen whales (rorquals) have ‘ventral grooves’ which run from their chin to their belly button. It is stretchy tissue that expands when they feed.”
Interestingly, one of the experts interviewed by the Huffington Post, Ocean Conservancy chief scientist George Leonard, thought that the creature was a giant squid. But the Indonesian photos revealed more clues, including the bones and baleen, that led him to believe that the animal was a whale after all.
According to Leonard, it can really be tricky to identify giant marine creatures right away, especially if photos or video showing the purported sighting aren’t too clear.
“Trying to identify huge ocean creatures half a [world] away from a grainy video is tough to do; but once people start sharing specific information that begins to narrow in on defining characteristics of the creature, the identity begins to come into focus.”
So with that, everyone can rest easy – that Seram Island sighting looks to be a beached whale and not a giant squid. And while Indonesian media might not have gotten it right the first time around, a subsequent Jakarta Globe report quoted local authorities, who likewise concluded that the animal was a sperm whale and that the “tentacles” spotted were actually the whale’s decaying innards.
“With sperm whales, when they decay, the intestines will come out through the bottom of the throat, which is striped like a pumpkin, and they become curved,” explained Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries official Nasrun to Detik.com, as quoted by the Jakarta Globe.
The dead whale, once thought to be a giant squid, was believed to be migrating to the Pacific Ocean via Indonesia’s Maluku Islands. Authorities hope to confirm the species of the whale in the coming days.
[Featured Image by Koji Sasahara/AP Images]