World's first colossal squid display open soon

Last updated 03:07 29/11/2008

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The Museum of New Zealand will open the world's only colossal squid exhibit on December 13.

The 495 kg, 4.2m female colossal squid will be on show at Te Papa in time for the summer school holidays, and will stay on free display for three years.

It will be lit in a custom-built tank, with displays of various body parts including the lens of its eye, and models of its beak and tentacle swivel hooks that can be touched and rotated.

"This exceptional specimen. . . contributes to our understanding and appreciation of our oceans depths and the amazing creatures that inhabit it," said Te Papa chief executive Seddon Bennington.

The tank with the squid inside weighs 3 tonnes and will be transported from the museum's Tory St workshops on Monday.

It is the most massive invertebrate ever discovered, and holds the record for the world's largest eye, measuring 27cm in diameter.

The squid was heavily hyped as a monster and "T-Rex of the Seas" after it was landed by the fishing vessel San Aspiring – gnawing on a hooked toothfish – in the Ross Sea in 2007.

Donated to the museum by then Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton, the squid turned out to be more a damp squib in terms of the 10m length initially estimated by the trawler skipper.

But when it was defrosted in April, the female squid proved fascinating in many other matters than size.

Marine biologist Dr Steve O'Shea, the main squid expert at Auckland's University of Technology, put together a theory that the female's body may be dark-coloured to cloak the glow of thousands of baby squid, which each have luminous glowing spots near their eyes.

"My research suggests they're not the T-Rex of the sea, they get more docile as they mature. . . as she got older she got shorter and broader and was reduced to a giant gelatinous blob, carrying many thousands of eggs," he said at the defrosting.

"It's likely she was just blobbing around the seabed carrying her brood of eggs, living on dead fish, while her mate was off hunting."

Discovery Channel US filmed the defrosting and examination of the colossal squid for a documentary that was released in the North America earlier this year.  

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- NZPA

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