Rare Giant Squid Surfaces Off Japan, Wraps Tentacles Around Diver

A baby version of the rare giant squid Architeuthis dux, believed to be the longest squid in the world, surfaced in Toyama Bay, Japan, on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2015, and was guided to safety by a Good Samaritan diver. As the third giant squid to be caught on video, the Christmas Eve visitor was just above 12 feet long, shorter than the longest measured specimen of 43 feet.

According to CNBC, dive shop owner Akinobu Kimura jumped in where the rare creature was being recorded on a submersible camera and showed the giant squid out to open water. Akinobu, who operates Diving Shop Kaiyu, explained the encounter to CNN.

“This squid was not damaged and looked lively, spurting ink and trying to entangle his tentacles around me. I guided the squid toward the ocean, several hundred meters from the area it was found in, and it disappeared into the deep sea.”

Like all members of its rare species, a giant squid has a mantle or torso, eight arms, and two long tentacles. The squid’s great length consists mainly of arms and tentacles, giving it a lighter weight than its chief predator, the sperm whale. Hundreds, rather than thousands, of kilograms make up the weight of the scientifically documented squid.

Dissecting giant squid in New Zealand

One of the rare extant invertebrates, the giant squid is also the second-largest of the mollusks. Only the colossal squid or Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni is on record to have a mantle twice as long. Evidence shows that the present-day giant squid may have been smaller than its several extinct cousins. What may have grown even larger than the present-day giant squid was the Ordoviciannautiloid Cameroceras.

Still, size has been subject to exaggeration. Reports of rare specimens going beyond 60 feet are rampant, but no scientific evidence backs this contention. The scientific community prefers to believe that such giant squid lengths are misrepresented by overstretching the two tentacles like elastic bands.

According to the Washington Post, the squid perceived as massive in the video shot prior to Akinobu jumping in is a young one just above 12 feet in length. Researchers have estimated the rare giant squid Architeuthis dux capable of achieving three times that length or over 60 feet, but no evidence exists to support such a theory. Since most of the giant squid seen by humans have been long-dead specimens, the stretched-out tissue argument is the most plausible.

When the rare giant squid feed on deep-sea fish and other squid species, they use the two tentacles with serrated sucker rings on the ends to seize and trap prey. The prey is drawn to the powerful beak, where a tongue with file-like teeth shreds it to the right consistency for the esophagus.

According to Time, the lone creature was spotted by spectators from a pier in Toyama Bay, in keeping with its solitary hunter reputation. The rare giant squid has also turned up in fishing nets belonging to New Zealand trawlers stalking hoki fish. Fishermen as far as Antarctica have also snagged this unexpected catch.

Antarctica fisherman and giant squid

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History presents this rare footage of a live female giant squid videotaped by Japanese scientists on December 4, 2006. The creature was recorded swimming in its natural environment by scientists suspending bait beneath a research vessel off the Ogasawara Islands in an attempt to hook a giant squid. While the camera was running, the Japanese team drew a 24-foot squid to the surface for the world to see.

To put it in proper perspective, the rare giant squid is on record as the longest of its kind in the sea, but the colossal squid is the biggest in terms of mass. The Washington Post reports that scientists dissected a 770-pound colossal squid back in 2014.

[Photo by Handout/Getty Images]