Giant squid dissection continues – the enormous eye of the Kraken wakes!

The ovaries of the giant colossal squid have been found, yes the specimen is a girl! I jumped the gun in my original post because it had been posited that the squid may have been a male. For all those who have been captivated by the giant colossal squid being dissected and examined at Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, I hope you have had a chance to watch the webcast.

The blog page from Te Papa is linked here.

It is full of wonderful images and information on the details of each stage of the dissection.

Some of the fascinating details from the blog are:

“The two long tentacles that the fishermen observed have shortened and shrunken considerably post mortem, giving a final total length of 4.2 metres.

The beak however, is made of hard chitonous material and not subject to shrinkage: the lower rostral beak length of the 495 kg specimen is 42.5 mm – beaks up to 49 mm have been found in sperm whale stomachs, therefore this animal must attain much much bigger sizes than this!

Each set of gills has a heart, with the main heart close by.”

For me, the most interesting and hypnotic part of the dissection involved the huge eyes of this creature.The scientists posit that these “are without doubt the largest eyes that have ever been studied (and probably among the largest eyes that have existed during the history of the animal kingdom)”.

They are reported to be between 25-27 centimetres about the size of a soccer ball, having been even larger when the squid was alive at about 30 centimetres. The lens is said to have been about 80 -90mm

“When this squid was alive, the lens was almost certainly spherical and possibly of a size similar to an orange (ca. 80 – 90 mm diameter)”.

The scientists say that having these large eyes was vital to the ability of the squid to survive in the dark waters of its environment, about 1000 m below the surface of the sea enabling it to collect every photon of available light. The enormous size of the eye allowed it to have a huge pupil, estimated to probably have been 80-90 mm across. Scientists are quoted as saying that

“these large eyes also allow the possibility of high spatial resolution (the ability to distinguish spatial detail), although it is possible that neural mechanisms in the optic lobe sum signals from groups of neighbouring photoreceptors, thus making the visual “pixels” larger, but also much brighter. Thus with enormous eyes, and a large and complex optic lobe, giant deep-sea squids, like the colossal squid we are studying here, have the potential for advanced vision in the profoundly dark depths where they live. This ability would be potentially useful for many tasks, including the detection of prey and predators, and for seeing each other.”

The blog site also reproduces the wonderful poem The Kraken by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, a wonderful read.

PHOTO OF THE DAY: Antarctica. Pancake ice is a common formation in sea ice.
July 30, 2000.\

Photograph by: Zee Evans, National Science Foundation, Date Taken: July 30, 2000.

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~ by abstraktbiblos on Wednesday, 30 April, 2008.

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