Wednesday, September 28, 2005

ENV: Giant Squid photographed


And just in time for Circus of the Spineless!

Scientists photograph giant squid

TOKYO, Japan (AP) -- Japanese scientists have photographed for the first time in the wild a live giant squid, one of the most mysterious creatures of the deep sea.

The team, led by Tsunemi Kubodera from the National Science Museum in Tokyo, tracked the 8-meter (25-foot) long Architeuthis as it attacked prey at 900 meters deep off the coast of Japan's Bonin islands.

"We believe this is the first time a grown giant squid has been captured on camera in its natural habitat," said Kyoichi Mori, a marine researcher who co-authored a piece on the finding in the Royal Society Journal, a leading British biological publication.

The camera was operated by remote control during research at the end of October 2004, Mori told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Mori said the squid, which was purplish red like smaller squid, attacked its quarry aggressively, calling into question the image of the animal as lethargic and slow moving.

"Contrary to belief that the giant squid is relatively inactive, the squid we captured on film actively used its enormous tentacles to go after prey," Mori said.

"It went after some bait that we had on the end of the camera and became stuck, and left behind a tentacle six meters long, " Mori said.

Kubodera, also reached by the AP, said researchers ran DNA tests on the tentacle and found it matched those of other giant squids found around Japan.

`'But other sightings were of smaller, or very injured squids washed toward the shore -- or of parts of a giant squid," Kubodera said. "This is the first time a full-grown, healthy squid has been sighted in its natural environment in deep water."

Giant squids have long attracted human fascination and were written about and mythologized by the ancient Greeks.

Scientific interest in the animals has surged in recent years as more specimens have been caught in commercial fishing nets.

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