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“Here there be monsters," declares one ancient map where the unknown open ocean held nothing but mystery for sailors. The Giant Squid may have been one of the creatures so feared. The life cycle of a Giant Squid would have remained a mystery, but several of these reclusive creatures have washed up on shore and scientists have been able to observe one in its natural habitat. Scientists continue to study these once-mythical creatures in an effort to better understand them.
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Facts About the Giant Squid
The Giant Squid is a different creature than the colossal squid. The scientific name for Giant Squid is Architeuthis Dux. These animals grow up to 60 feet in length and may weigh nearly a ton. Scientists believe these animals live at depths from 600 to 2,300 feet below the ocean. The Giant Squid appears to eat other smaller squid and fish, particularly those native to the deep ocean such as orange ruffie.
Recent information has revealed that these giant animals do not process oxygen well in warmer temperatures and so must stay in the deeper, colder waters. These cephalapods have the largest eyes of any other animal in the world. They are not only a different creature, but actually a different species from the colossal squid. One of these large cephalapods has been observed in a pitched battle with a whale. Scientists are now using deep ocean submersibles to learn more about these fascinating creatures.
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The female Giant Squid produces a large number of eggs that are very small. Each egg may be about one millimeter long and less than one millimeter wide. She will not produce these eggs until she is about three years old. She accepts spermatophores from the male to fertilize her eggs before she lays them. Currently there is no information on how long the eggs gestate before hatching or the exact size of each squid.
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Much of the life of these reclusive creatures is unknown, but scientists have been able to study the remains of those that occasionally wash up on beaches around the world. Unlike large mammals such as the elephant or whales, the Giant Squid appear to grow very rapidly from the time they are hatched from their egg. Small concretions or hardened cells have been found inside the organ responsible for equilibrium. These concretions would effect the ability of the animal to swim and hunt. This indicates that these animals live for no more than five years. This fast growth would require enormous amounts of food.
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Hunting and Eating
The stomach contents of these creatures are studied each time one washes up on a beach. Scientists have discovered they eat other squid and a variety of fish that are found deep in the ocean. Since these creatures have always been found individually, it is thought they are solitary hunters. The amount of food they would need to eat regularly would seem to preclude living in groups.
Adult Giant Squid are also hunted and eaten by other animals such as sperm whales and sleeper sharks. Younger squid are hunted by deep sea sharks and fish. Many of these animals never reach maturity. The danger of the deep ocean is one reason the female lays so many eggs at a time. This large number of young increases the odds that at least a few will survive to become adults.
The life cycle of the Giant Squid will continue to be a subject for study by scientists. Modern advances in deep-sea exploration will increase the ability of scientists to interact with these mysterious creatures. Some of the most recent photographs available of live Giant Squid are on the National Geographic Website.
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Resources and Images
Giant Squid, Architeuthis Dux, http://marinebio.org/species.asp?id=156
In Search of Giant Squid, http://seawifs.gsfc.nasa.gov/squid.html
Additional photos are available at http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/giant-squid/
Wikimedia Commons/WiKiRaW31, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Whale&Squid~11-29-08_%282%29.JPG