Giant no match for colossal cousin

SQUID IN A SQUEEZE: Bella Spragg, 10, inspects a squid on Island Bay beach.
SQUID IN A SQUEEZE: Bella Spragg, 10, inspects a squid on Island Bay beach.

Te Papa's 10-metre colossal squid is about to get a boyfriend.

This three-metre specimen, of the smaller "giant" variety, washed up on Island Bay beach yesterday. Though a bit of a shrimp by comparison, it is likely to go on display alongside its colossal cousin.

Alana Spragg and her daughter Bella spotted the rubbery creature in the shallows while out walking, and hauled it up on the sand. "The body was floating on top and the tentacles were kind of underneath ... every time I touched it I sort of screamed," Ms Spragg said.

"It was really heavy, it took two people to carry it was about the length of two humans."

Bella, 10, said the squid felt like soggy rubber. "At first I didn't want to touch it, but then everyone else was.

"I'm hoping it will be preserved so people can see it."

Te Papa collection manager Bruce Marshall said the giant squid had been put in a freezer and would eventually be preserved for display. It was in fantastic condition, he said. "It had probably only been dead for a couple of hours. Its skin was perfect." Eyes, tentacles and beak all appeared to be intact.

At just 3m long, the squid was small for its kind, meaning it was possibly a rarely seen male specimen.

"I've probably examined 50 and I've only seen one male," Mr Marshall said.

The preservation process will start in about two months, because some of Te Papa's facilities are being renovated.

The museum's prized colossal squid was pulled from Antarctic waters in February 2007 and has been on display since December.

Colossal squid are slightly shorter than giant squid but have larger, heavier bodies.

Te Papa's colossal squid weighed in at a whopping 490 kilograms. No male colossal squid are known to have been found.

The Dominion Post