Paleontology

How big are the biggest squids?
Answered by Discovery Channel
  • Discovery Channel

    Discovery Channel

  1. Some squids are just a couple of inches long, but giant (Architeuthis dux), colossal (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) and jumbo or Humboldt (Dosidicus gigas) squids are absolutely huge. Giant and colossal squids can weigh up to 1,000 pounds (453 kilograms) [source: Smithsonian Institution]. They also can grow to be 35 to 60 feet (10.6 to 18.2 meters) long including their tentacles. To put that size into perspective, that’s longer than a school bus. The squid’s eyeballs are the size of volleyballs and for a little extra effect, they stick out. Humboldt squids are a bit smaller, growing to only about six or seven feet (1.8 or 2.1 meters) long and weighing in at 100 pounds (45 kilograms).

    The reason giant, colossal and Humboldt squids grow so big is a phenomenon called deep-sea gigantism. The squids’ ancestors were much smaller, but as the squids migrated to deeper waters, they had to evolve into bigger animals to deter larger predators. Plus, at greater depths, less food is available. The squids have to travel long distances to find food, so size -- and the endurance that comes with it -- is an advantage.

    What is believed to be the largest squid ever caught was found snagged on a fishing line off the coast of Antarctica in 2007. The female colossal squid weighed about 1,000 pounds (454 kilograms) and was 30 feet long (9 meters). She would have made her living at depths as deep as 6,500 feet (1,981 meters) beneath the surface [source: National Geographic]. She was carrying some partially developed eggs, and she had the largest eyes of any known animal on Earth at 11 inches wide (28 centimeters). In fact, her eye is the only fully intact eye of a colossal squid that has ever been retrieved [source: National Geographic]. Far from being the feared sea monster of lore, scientists who examined her thought she was likely slow-moving and would have been at high risk for attack by predators such as the sperm whale, her natural enemy.


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