Te Papa to get another colossal squid

MICHAEL DALY
Last updated 17:04 11/08/2014
squid
BIG SQUID: A colossal squid caught in 2007 is on display at Te Papa.

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Scientists will get a second chance to defrost and examine a colossal squid at Te Papa, after one of the rarely seen creatures was caught on a fishing boat longline off Antarctica.

The squid was caught over the summer and had been put on ice for its journey back to New Zealand. It arrived in the past few weeks and was being kept in optimum conditions in a freezer at Te Papa, the museum said today.

Te Papa is home to the first complete colossal squid specimen which was caught off Antarctica in February 2007, then defrosted in April 2008 amid great international excitement.

The capture of a second of the animals was another rare and exciting research opportunity for scientists who specialised in squid biology, Te Papa said. 

"Much of their ability to gather information exists within a small window of time immediately after the squid has thawed and just before Te Papa scientists begin the process of preserving it."

Te Papa senior curator sciences Susan Waugh said the new squid was thought to be slightly smaller than the 495kg specimen already on display, although full details were not yet known.

Hopefully the thawing and examination could be done within a few weeks. A timetable was being worked out  with other researchers in this country.

International interest was also expected. "It's a pretty rare event," Waugh said.

This new squid and the one already on display in Te Papa were the only two from the species to have been caught intact.

"There are a relatively limited number of them globally because they are a Southern Ocean-distributed species."

The captain of the ship that caught the squid was still at sea, and precise details of the capture were not yet known, she said.

It came from the Ross Sea, where colossal squid had been caught in the past.

The boat that caught it had been fishing for toothfish, at a depth of around 2km.

This new squid and the one already on display in Te Papa were the only two from the species to have been caught intact, Waugh said.

"We're really excited about it. We've had a lot of debate about how exactly to put it to best use.

"The science team here are in complete agreement it should be kept intact because it's a rare opportunity to have one that's still whole."

It was possible it could be put on display.

"It's quite an open book in terms of what we will be looking at," she said.

Much would depend on the assessment made by scientists when they processed the squid.

Because colossal squid were caught so rarely, discoveries were still being made about the species' biology.

"There's been no large males captured, so we're not sure what they look like at this stage."

The sex of the new squid was not known yet.

Stable isotope analyses could also be carried out to find out where the squid fitted into the food chain.

The colossal squid already on display had been preserved to maintain it in perpetuity. While it needed some maintenance, the tissue in the specimen was quite stable.

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- Stuff

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