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  #1  
Old 09-14-2005, 12:05 AM
Terrifel Terrifel is offline
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What's the deal with the "colossal squid?"

Recently I found out that everyone's favorite sperm whale antagonist, the giant squid, is apparently no longer considered the giantest squid out there. Evidently an even more fearsome mollusc was discovered in Antarctic waters back in March of 2003, and was promptly dubbed the "colossal squid" in a rather transparent display of one-upsmanship. Somehow I missed the news at the time, so I've been trying to catch up on the newly crowned king of the cephalopods, Mesonchyoteuthis hamiltoni. By all accounts it's a veritable juggernaut of invertebrate savagery, with vicious swiveling hooks on its tentacles and huge photophores along the body, none of which are available options on your standard model Architeuthis. It would seem that after centuries of terrorizing sailors, the giant squid is suddenly an also-ran.

However... while perusing the various articles on the colossal squid, I began to get a sense that something was subtly awry. Virtually all the quoted remarks on the extraordinary qualities of Mesonchyoteuthis were courtesy of Dr. Steve O'Shea of the Auckland University of Technology, who was the researcher in charge of examining the new specimen and who is also an authority on the giant squid. Regarding this new discovery, Dr. O'Shea told the BBC, "Giant squid is no longer the largest squid that's out there. We've got something that's even larger, and not just larger but an order of magnitude meaner."

This remark brought a curious fact to my attention: in the BBC interview (linked to below), Dr. O'Shea made much of the fact that the mantle (or "head") length of the colossal squid (2.5 m) is greater than the mantle length of the giant squid (2.25 m). Yet in that same article, nowhere does he directly state the total body length of the colossal squid. After doing a little digging, I discovered an amazing fact: the total length of the "colossal squid" is approximately 20 feet. In contrast, the largest generally accepted measurement of a giant squid specimen is 57 feet. To my mind, this fact sort of undercuts the whole "the colossal squid is the biggest squid ever" premise.

Researching further, I learned that Dr. O'Shea accounts for this uncomfortable situation in two ways: firstly, he discards all measurements of giant squid that exceed the maximum recorded size of the species found in New Zealand waters. The 57-foot specimen is right out, of course, as are accounts from Newfoundland and Mauritius that cite mantle lengths of 4 to 6 meters. In addition, he advances his conviction that all giant squid represent a single globally distributed species that never gets any bigger than the New Zealand specimens: "To perpetuate myths of more than one species of Architeuthis (up to 20 species have been reported), lengths of 60 feet and weights of up to a ton is a disservice to science."

Using these criteria, he arrives at a mantle length of 2.25 m and a total length of 37 feet for Architeuthis . Note that this is still nearly twice as large as the biggest Mesonchyoteuthis specimen on record.

However Dr. O'Shea told the BBC that, in his opinion, the recovered Mesonchyoteuthis specimen was still a juvenile, and that the species could concievably grow to a mantle length of 4.0 m. The BBC article provided no explanation for this theory, but I was able to track down an abstract (linked to below) in which Dr. O'Shea attempts to justify his position. Evidently he believes that certain squid beaks recovered from the stomach contents of sperm whales are those of mature Mesonchyoteuthis, and he interprets their size as indicating a maximum mantle length of 4.0 m. This is especially interesting, because in the very same article he states that no mature Mesonchyoteuthis have ever been recovered, so it's anyone's guess how he knows how big they can get from looking at their beaks. It would be one thing if there were a large number of juvenile specimens that exhibited a predictable increase in beak size over time, but from all the information I have been able to find, there has been exactly ONE other intact Mesonchyoteuthis specimen ever recovered.

Even more remarkably, in this article (which was apparently last updated two months after the new specimen was found-- and a month after the BBC interview in which he introduced the whole "juvenile colossal squid" idea), Dr. O'Shea indicates that he still hasn't gotten around to comparing the beaks: "Should the beaks from sperm whale stomach contents be appreciably larger than those from the present carcass, then we can say that the animal does attain a considerably larger size. If not then it would appear that the reputed size that this animal attains has again been exaggerated, as it has for over a century with Architeuthis." I was unable to locate the results of the comparison, or indeed if it was ever made.

I wasn't sure which forum would be most appropriate for this screed, and the mods are certainly welcome to relocate it to wherever it is deemed appropriate. I'd certainly like to know what the current zoological consensus is regarding the so-called "colossal squid." However, my ongoing curiosity about the animal itself has gradually been overshadowed by my suspicion that this entire affair is a monument to crap science. I've come across several biology sites lately stating flat out that the "colossal squid" is the largest squid.

Am I just reading this material completely wrong (a real possibility, I freely admit), or does none of it make any real sense at all? Dr. O'Shea seems to be quite well regarded in his field, and he certainly has my apologies if my impression of his ludicrously sensationalist work on this subject is completely off base. Perhaps someone here can provide some updated information on the current state of squid research that would shed light on this issue.

Some useful links:

The original BBC article. Enjoy the inaccurate and completely meaningless size comparison graphic, particularly the way in which the "colossal squid" image looks absolutely nothing like the specimen in the photo, and a great deal like the "giant squid" image inverted and enlarged slightly. Also of interest is the fact that Dr. O'Shea's research team freely admits to coining the term "colossal squid" as a sexier alternative to the name "Antarctic cranch squid" that Mesonchyoteuthis hamiltoni has been identified with since it was first described in 1925. Which name do you think is likely to garner more headlines?


Giant Squid and Colossal Squid Fact Sheet: Courtesy of Dr. Steve O'Shea. Highlights:

--Fig. 7 [Architeuthis dux] "Maximum length 13 meters (37 feet)"

--[Mesonchyoteuthis hamiltoni] "Estimated mantle length: 2—4m; total length to 30 feet."

--"Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni (Fig. 8) No mature Mesonychoteuthis is known. Based on the size of beaks recovered from sperm whale stomach contents it is estimated that it attains a mantle length of 2—4 m, which would render it considerably larger than Architeuthis (Fig. 8)."

If there are any doubters left after all this, they have only to consult Fig. 8, where it is clearly depicted how much bigger the 30-foot colossal squid is than the 37-foot giant squid. Don't bother looking for a scale indicator; it is in another dimension.

Don't ask me what the Giant Warty Squid has to do with any of this.
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  #2  
Old 09-14-2005, 02:11 AM
CynicalGabe CynicalGabe is offline
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I can honestly say that you put more work into that post than the last 2 papers I turned in for grad school combined.

But interesting nonetheless, kudos. And.. Yeah, sounds like the giant squid is getting shortchanged.
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  #3  
Old 09-14-2005, 04:40 PM
Terrifel Terrifel is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CynicalGabe
I can honestly say that you put more work into that post than the last 2 papers I turned in for grad school combined.
Yeah, I suppose my OP did get a little out of control there. Originally it wasn't very much longer than the thread title itself, a request for updated information regarding the vital stats for Mesonchyoteuthis. However, it occurred to me that any responses might simply direct me back to the original pronouncements of Dr. O'Shea, which wouldn't be too surprising since he seemed to be the only researcher aggressively promoting the "colossal squid" to the press. Instead of replying piecemeal to anyone citing Dr. O'Shea, I thought it would be more straightforward to summarize my concerns up front.

I'd like to find out if any of Dr. O'Shea's claims have been addressed by other researchers in the two years since this specimen was recovered, and if there was ultimately any actual significance to the find-- or whether, as it appears to me, it was all just an unfortunate example of dubious science and poor journalism. I was hoping that some well-informed molluscophile might be able to give me the skinny on the whole strange affair.

Quote:
But interesting nonetheless, kudos. And.. Yeah, sounds like the giant squid is getting shortchanged.
Thanks for the kind words. I hope grad school is going okay for you. Sadly, I never made it that far myself; although I'm deeply interested in the biological sciences (as might be inferred from the above), my catastrophic innumeracy kept me from mastering the requisite higher math classes.

Of course, most of the math problems were significantly more difficult than: "True or False: a 30-foot squid is bigger than a 37-foot squid." If I'd only attended the Auckland University of Technology, I might have my degree today.
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  #4  
Old 09-14-2005, 05:01 PM
Aagramn Aagramn is offline
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Interesting Terrifel, I remember that article.

There is tons of bad science published by the media. You might find this intereting:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/life/badsc...564369,00.html
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  #5  
Old 09-14-2005, 07:32 PM
Cervaise Cervaise is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Terrifel
I suppose my OP did get a little out of control there.
Hardly. One of the most interesting GQ OPs we've had in a quite.

Not that I have anything useful to add, mind you.
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  #6  
Old 09-14-2005, 09:25 PM
Sattua Sattua is online now
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Originally Posted by Terrifel
my catastrophic innumeracy kept me from mastering the requisite higher math classes.
Righto. Write an admissions letter full of clauses like that, and you'll be in like buttah.
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Old 09-14-2005, 10:20 PM
wolf_meister wolf_meister is offline
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Well it seems as if Dr O'Shea has come to some phenomenal conclusions from very little evidence and disregarding established facts.

As a neurologist once told me when I heard on television about a recent "miracle" cure for MS, she said "Doctors shouldn't 'publish' on the six o'clock news".
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Old 09-14-2005, 11:01 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cervaise
Not that I have anything useful to add, mind you.
Nor do I, not being in the habit of browsing the Squid Journals. And my invertebrate colleagues (the ones who study invertebrates, that is) specialize in echinoderms, snails, corals, and sponges, and so probably won't be much use. At least we will know who to turn to in the future in case we get a Giant Squid question in the Mailbag.
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Old 09-14-2005, 11:29 PM
NoCoolUserName NoCoolUserName is offline
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At the risk of adding further to the lack of help on this subject, let me say that I am in awe of anyone who can compose the phrase
Quote:
a veritable juggernaut of invertebrate savagery, with vicious swiveling hooks on its tentacles and huge photophores along the body, none of which are available options on your standard model Architeuthis.
Thank you OH so much for that!

Altho' I'm at a loss as to what a photophore might be.
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Old 09-14-2005, 11:40 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Originally Posted by NoCoolUserName
Altho' I'm at a loss as to what a photophore might be.
It's a bioluminescent organ.
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  #11  
Old 09-15-2005, 01:39 AM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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And my invertebrate colleagues (the ones who study invertebrates, that is) specialize in echinoderms, snails, corals, and sponges, and so probably won't be much use.
You might ask the snail guys, I suppose... They're at least the same phylum.

And I, too, wholeheartedly endorse this pre-emptive ignorance fighting. It's quite a feat to construct such a tour de force OP before anyone less educated had a chance to ask the question.
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  #12  
Old 09-15-2005, 05:54 AM
bonzer bonzer is offline
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Terrifel, I take it you've seen this profile of O'Shea from the New Yorker last year? Though it only glancingly mentions "colossal" squid, concentrating instead on his (quixotic?) hopes of raising a giant one in captivity starting from a tiny baby one.
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Old 09-15-2005, 08:09 AM
Terrifel Terrifel is offline
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Bonzer: no, as a matter of fact I hadn't seen that article; thanks for pointing it out! I think it's extremely enlightening that in David Grann's extensive Feb. 2004 interview, Dr. O'Shea apparently declined to call any attention to the "colossal squid" specimen that he had examined less than a year earlier. Given that the article dwells so extensively on the huge size and mysterious habits of the giant squid, it's curious that Dr. O'Shea didn't bother to repeat his assertion that "Giant squid is no longer the largest squid that's out there. We've got something that's even larger, and not just larger but an order of magnitude meaner." I think it's probably safe to infer from this omission that further studies of beak size, etc. failed to support any of his original claims.

It's also instructive, in light of Dr. O'Shea's initial remarks to the BBC about the Mesonchyoteuthis specimen, to compare his quoted account of his first exposure to a giant squid specimen: “Before long, the press got wind of it, and they started calling and asking me all these questions, and I didn’t know anything about the giant squid. I spouted a bunch of nonsense[.]" Quite an interesting confession, if you ask me. Comically, later in the article O'Shea laments the fact that the study of Architeuthis is burdened by myths and inaccuracies. “We have to move beyond this mythical monster and see it as it is,” O’Shea said. “Isn’t that enough?” If I'd read this article first, I may have never even bothered to ask if his evaluation of Mesonchyoteuthis had any merit.

Perhaps I'm just being unreasonably suspicious at this point, but something about the climax of the New Yorker article seems just a mite convenient to me. After days of fruitless searching, a single tiny squid specimen is recovered well after midnight, shown to the reporter on hand, breathlessly identified as a giant squid larva, and then mysteriously vanishes moments later. A cynical person might suggest that this chain of events has a certain sleight-of-hand quality about it...

Dr. O'Shea seems to be quite a charming and charismatic fellow when the press is around, and he does appear to have a genuine passion for the subject. Studying the giant squid by capturing a larval specimen actually seems to me to be a very reasonable idea, and I wish him luck in the endeavor. If he does manage to maintain a live Architeuthis specimen in captivity, he will certainly have earned a unique place of honor in the field of invertebrate biology.
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Old 09-15-2005, 09:25 AM
Beadalin Beadalin is offline
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Here's a thread I started on this very topic. Oh, I loves me some colossal (or just giant) squid!

Colossal squid found in Antarctic
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Old 09-15-2005, 10:18 AM
Plynck Plynck is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Terrifel
By all accounts it's a veritable juggernaut of invertebrate savagery, with vicious swiveling hooks on its tentacles and huge photophores along the body, none of which are available options on your standard model Architeuthis.
Sounds just like an old Chevy my father once owned. I always wondered what happened to it...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Terrifel
Yeah, I suppose my OP did get a little out of control there.
Absolutely not. Other than that, nothing of substance to add here, but an additional question:

I know that old sea tales referred to a "Kraken". Is this considered nowadays to be the giant squid, or are these tales discredited as myths?
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Old 09-15-2005, 10:53 AM
Terrifel Terrifel is offline
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Oh, lord... From a New Zealand Herald article linked to in Beadalin's thread:
Quote:
Dr O'Shea said the formidable squid has the largest eyes in the animal kingdom.
Which would be very impressive, except that by Dr. O'Shea's own admission, the specimen being studied didn't have any eyes.
Quote:
The specimen (Mesonychoteuthis) is the largest thus far known of this species, but was extensively damaged (it was in 3 pieces and has been reassembled in the picture). Both eyes were destroyed at capture, so no better images exist (for this specimen).
I'm now wondering if Dr. O'Shea has ever made a single verifiably accurate statement regarding the Antarctic cranch squid. In fact, I'm starting to doubt that squid even exist at all.

You know what? Although this forum may not be the conventional scientific avenue for such an announcement, I'd like to formally nominate my pet ferret Mork as the world's largest squid. Ferrets have traditionally been classed as vertebrate mammals; however, I see no need to consider the possibly apocryphal data of ferret specimens found outside my house. Granted, Mork only measures 14 inches in length, but I believe that he may only be a larva. As such, he is significantly larger than the near-microscopic larva of the giant squid. Also, it is well known that the size of giant squid can be distorted post-mortem, so it seems prudent to limit our comparison to actual living mature giant squid specimens (of which, unfortunately, none have ever been accurately measured). Based on all the hard evidence, then, it seems clear that the ferret could well achieve a mature size far greater than any other species of marine invertebrate. Therefore, until new information becomes available, I propose that the name "ferret" be replaced by the more descriptive name "gargantuan ultrasquid."
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Old 09-15-2005, 11:07 AM
Beadalin Beadalin is offline
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Quote:
I'd like to formally nominate my pet ferret Mork as the world's largest squid.
Awesome.
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Old 09-15-2005, 11:18 AM
Terrifel Terrifel is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Plynck
I know that old sea tales referred to a "Kraken". Is this considered nowadays to be the giant squid, or are these tales discredited as myths?
In his 1998 book The Search for the Giant Squid, author Richard Ellis makes a pretty good case for the idea; Chapter Two of the book ("Is the Sea Monster a Giant Squid?") contains a fascinating capsule summary of the similarities between Architeuthis and descritions of various mythical sea beasts. Kraken is a Norwegian term, and giant squid have often been recovered from the waters around Norway, so it's not too much of a stretch to say that they were probably one and the same. Interestingly, "kraken" is actually plural, so when your longboat is attacked by only one, it's more accurate to cry out in terror, "Krake! Krake!"

Ellis' book also briefly discusses the Antarctic cranch squid, known to later generations as the terrifying "colossal squid" of New Zealand folklore. There's a nice photo of an intact specimen in Chapter 7.

As an aside, Ellis' book is also where I first read about the renowned Dr. Steve O'Shea, squid expert extraordinaire. The history of the giant squid, alas, is full of misinformation.
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Old 09-15-2005, 01:38 PM
GargoyleWB GargoyleWB is offline
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Originally Posted by Terrifel
Don't ask me what the Giant Warty Squid has to do with any of this.
Come on, don't leave us hanging here...

Great post by the way, I'm a sucker (get it ) for any squid documentary that comes on Discovery channel. They aren't quite as cute as cuttlefish though.
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  #20  
Old 09-15-2005, 02:09 PM
Aagramn Aagramn is offline
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In a similar vein, did you see the article about the "giant chilean octopus"?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3041884.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/nol/shared/spl...2756/img/1.jpg

When I saw it I thought the remains of Robert Maxwell had finally washed ashore.
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Old 09-15-2005, 02:22 PM
awldune awldune is offline
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Did anyone else see the episode of Wildboyz where they went to New Zealand? A scientist who may or may not have been O'Shea displayed a pair of giant squid specimens on a table in his driveway! The squid were really slippery and gooey, so they kept sliding off of the table.

Unfortunately, IMDB doesn't have a guest listing for that show, so I'm not sure whether it was O'Shea.
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Old 09-15-2005, 03:25 PM
Terrifel Terrifel is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aagramn
In a similar vein, did you see the article about the "giant chilean octopus"?
I remember that story; the mystery blob was eventually studied by researchers from the University of South Florida. They determined that it was a decayed whale face. The blob, that is, not the university.



Quote:
Originally Posted by GargoyleWB
Come on, don't leave us hanging here...
I told you not to ask me that!

Seriously, I have no idea. In the Giant Squid and Colossal Squid Fact Sheet from Dr. O'Shea's website that I linked to in the OP, he describes those two species and also the Giant Warty Squid (Kondakovia longimana). Since this species is not related to either Architeuthis or Mesonchyoteuthis (except insofar as they're both squid), its presence on the fact sheet is a mystery. However, Dr. O'Shea refers to some photographs of Mesonchyoteuthis and Kondakovia from the National Museum of New Zealand, and suggests that the purpose of the fact sheet is actually to provide information to the press regarding these two species. Of course, this in turn raises the question of why Architeuthis is included, and why the publication isn't entitled the "Colossal Squid and Warty Squid Fact Sheet." My personal suspicion is that Dr. O'Shea gratuitously added the information on the giant squid just so he'd have an excuse to include Fig. 8, showing how much bigger his pet "colossal squid" is.

Incidentally, check out the web directory on the site, which features 11 links to various sources of information on cephalopods. It also features two links to information about Cthulhu.
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  #23  
Old 09-15-2005, 03:33 PM
Beadalin Beadalin is offline
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(Fixed link)
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  #24  
Old 09-15-2005, 03:39 PM
Terrifel Terrifel is offline
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Thanks, Beadalin. May the blessings of Cthulhu smile upon you. I thought I'd previewed that link; I seem to have a knack for incompetently pasting hypertext though.
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Old 09-15-2005, 03:41 PM
Plynck Plynck is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Terrifel
Interestingly, "kraken" is actually plural, so when your longboat is attacked by only one, it's more accurate to cry out in terror, "Krake! Krake!"
Accurate perhaps. However, in this circumstance I would throw accuracy to the winds, and cry out something else, I'm afraid.
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Old 09-15-2005, 07:48 PM
Cervaise Cervaise is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Terrifel
Giant Warty Squid
It's not enough it's a squid and it's giant, it has to be giant, too? Yeesh.
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  #27  
Old 09-15-2005, 07:49 PM
Cervaise Cervaise is offline
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Frak!

"It's not enough it's a squid and it's giant, it has to be warty, too."

Now, for my next act, I'm going to get drunk, grope a random chick on the dance floor, and then discover it's my mom.

Oh, wait, I've already done that too.

Balls.
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Old 09-15-2005, 09:34 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cervaise
"It's not enough it's a squid and it's giant, it has to be warty, too."
I understand it has bad breath as well.
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  #29  
Old 09-27-2005, 11:30 PM
Squink Squink is offline
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The first photos of Architeuthis in the Wild were released today. That's Some Squid!
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Old 09-28-2005, 10:02 AM
Bippy the Beardless Bippy the Beardless is offline
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Originally Posted by Squink
The first photos of Architeuthis in the Wild were released today. That's Some Squid!
And the Squid lost a bit of tenticle and then swam away. So now there is a angry giant squid off of Japan.
Any ships gone missing recently?
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Old 09-28-2005, 10:10 AM
Rocketeer Rocketeer is offline
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Originally Posted by Cervaise
...Now, for my next act, I'm going to get drunk, grope a random chick on the dance floor, and then discover it's my mom.

Oh, wait, I've already done that too.

Eeeeeew, eeeeew, ick ick ick!
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Old 09-28-2005, 10:05 PM
Terrifel Terrifel is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Squink
The first photos of Architeuthis in the Wild were released today. That's Some Squid!
Hully gee... that is just about the coolest thing ever. Behold the giant squid, live on camera. Chalk another one up for science! Just imagine being out swimming, looking down and seeing that thing coming up out of the depths at you.

I note with interest that the Nat'l Geographic article has bought into the whole contrived "colossal squid" designation for Mesonchyoteuthis, and also mentions that it has eyes of a size comparable to those of Architeuthis. I wonder if the magazine actually has some independent confirmation of this, or if the author is simply repeating the claim Dr. O'Shea made after studying a specimen which had no eyes?
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  #33  
Old 09-29-2005, 03:05 AM
Ranchoth Ranchoth is offline
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Just thought I'd say: excellent work, Terrifel!

Have you considered adding any of this to Wikipedia?
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  #34  
Old 09-29-2005, 08:55 AM
Terrifel Terrifel is offline
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Thanks muchly, Ranchoth. Actually I'm not familiar enough with WIkipedia to know how appropriate a "random person percieves suspicious pattern of misinformation and hyperbole regarding the Antarctic cranch squid" entry would be.
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Old 09-29-2005, 09:00 AM
BMalion BMalion is offline
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I'd like to point out that Gargantuan Ultrasquid would make a cool...


...you know.
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  #36  
Old 09-29-2005, 12:33 PM
Cervaise Cervaise is offline
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Boyfriend?

Dessert topping?

Super-absorbent feminine hygiene pad?

Don't keep us in suspense here.
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  #37  
Old 11-27-2005, 06:40 PM
Steve O'Shea Steve O'Shea is offline
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Heavens, guys, gals; you're a bit rough on me aren't you? Someone just drew this thread to my attention.

First and foremost, anyone that has dealt with the press knows that you don't believe everything that you read! They do tend to sensationalise everything. If it doesn't have big hooks, big teeth, huge eyes, breathes fire, cable-cutting beaks and a forked tongue then it is simply not going to get a mention.

However, there are just a couple of points that I care to clarify right here.

1) 1 + 1 does not equal 3 at AUT!

2) The manuscript describing this Mesonychoteuthis specimen, and several additional specimens is now complete and about to be submitted for publication.

3) Put yourself in our shoes; you receive a humungous block of ice, defrost it and blow your mind. You have before you something that is larger (see point 5) than anything you have ever encountered before, and you have processed MANY tons of fisheries bycatch and know what you are talking about. Do you: a) go golly gosh, take the beaks out and discard it because you haven't a bottle big enough to put it in; b) measure, describe and preserve the specimen, submit for publication, wait 2 years in the process, then have a press release when the specimen is shrivelled up in formalin, stinks and looks quite disgusting; c) call the cameras in so that everyone has the opportunity to see it (see point 4), then go about the process of describing it.

4) Given the extent of commercial fisheries impacts in the environment, people have a right to know what is happening and where. We deliberately prostitute and presstitute ourselves by using this charismatic megafauna to lure people into far more important issues, such as conservation. Do a google search on my name + conservation. You'll see that I am no stranger to this game. It is not about the squid, but about the environment; people don't give a rats ar5e about the myriad smaller-bodied so-called insignificant animals killed everytime a trawl hits the sea bed - but they do is the squid are killed, or the diet of teuthophagous cetaceans is forced to change over 30 years given the loss of primary food sources and habitat.

Finally, 5). Size is a difficult one to measure. In squid it can be in terms of total length, standard length, mantle length and weight; you have concerned yourself solely with weight.

Of 121 Architeuthis dux that I have handled personally over the past 8 years, the maximum length was 13m (~40 feet), with a weight of 275kg (I haven't converted to pounds); this was a female with a mantle length of 2.25m, a standard length (mantle, head and arms) of 5m; the rest of her, ~2.3m of tentacle within the arm crown (included in the standard length measurement) and a free portion of 8m is made up of these two inordinately long, feeble tentacles. The male is shorter and lighter, to 10m and 150kg. Mantle and standard length are the two standards in squid descriptions.

I'll ask you. What would you sooner be in the water with. A 13m Architeuthis (total length) weighing 275kg, or a 5m (total length) SUBMATURE Mesonychoteuthis weighing ~ 300kg? That weight has to be distributed somewhere, and that is in the BODY of the animal; it is stuffing enormous. It doesn't have pathetic, feeble tentacles to stretch out like Architeuthis; this animal attains a massive size that exceeds that of Architeuthis in mantle and standard length.

If anyone really cares I can link you to several sites/images that give you a direct comparison, and an indication of the damage that this squid can do to a sperm whale. I'm a tad disinclined right now; we'll see. You will find this subject discussed to death on www.TONMO.com; it's the only site I visit regularly as I don't have a lot of time. I'll get to the eyes later; they are typical of the family Cranchiidae.

Me
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  #38  
Old 11-27-2005, 06:49 PM
Steve O'Shea Steve O'Shea is offline
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can't figure out how to edit the earlier ... sorry ... that's why I spend so little time online.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve O'Shea
Finally, 5). Size is a difficult one to measure. In squid it can be in terms of total length, standard length, mantle length and weight; you have concerned yourself solely with weight (read total length).
I meant total length

The 57-foot animal that you refer to was paced, not measured (it says this very clearly in the original paper), partially digested (it would have been ex sperm whale stomach, regurgitated when harpooned), stranded on a beach, the tentacles stretched, and several days old. Parts of these old Architeuthis specimens still exist in collections of the Museum of New Zealand (the old Dominion Museum, where the original researchers resided), and they are no larger than remains of average-sized squid seen today.
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  #39  
Old 11-27-2005, 07:22 PM
Richard Pearse Richard Pearse is offline
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Welcome to the SDMB Steve O'Shea. The edit function is not available on this board, so we just proof read before submitting and we don't get too uptight about typos.
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  #40  
Old 11-27-2005, 07:27 PM
Blake Blake is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve O'Shea
4) Given the extent of commercial fisheries impacts in the environment, people have a right to know what is happening and where. We deliberately prostitute and presstitute ourselves by using this charismatic megafauna to lure people into far more important issues, such as conservation.
So it's the Fundie argument: It's OK to lie if we save your soul/ecosystem.

This isn't the right forum for discussing the ethics of prostituting science for an ideological cause so I won't say any more.
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Old 11-27-2005, 07:37 PM
Steve O'Shea Steve O'Shea is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blake
So it's the Fundie argument: It's OK to lie if we save your soul/ecosystem.

This isn't the right forum for discussing the ethics of prostituting science for an ideological cause so I won't say any more.
No, we've not prostituted the truth at all; I prostitute myself, in the sense that I spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with the press, dumbing down the research so that the media (apparent) target demographic, the 13-18 year old male with a 15-second attention span, will read or view something. That doesn't mean that I enjoy doing it.

I am entirely comfortable with everything that we have said about the size of this animal, and its ferocity. There's a not-so-subtle distinction between the terms 'largest' and 'longest'. Do a search on the following genera: Teuthowenia, Galiteuthis and Megalocranchia; they're all cranchiid squid, like Mesonychoteuthis. Now scale these puppies up - that's all that we are dealing with.
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Old 11-27-2005, 07:38 PM
Richard Pearse Richard Pearse is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blake
So it's the Fundie argument: It's OK to lie if we save your soul/ecosystem.

This isn't the right forum for discussing the ethics of prostituting science for an ideological cause so I won't say any more.
But you have already said too much. Given that this isn't the right forum for such a discussion, why did you even post what you did?
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  #43  
Old 11-27-2005, 07:54 PM
samclem samclem is offline
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Let's end the side comments right now.

If anyone wants to Pit Steve O'Shea, then take it there.

Keep this one on track.

samclem GQ moderator
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  #44  
Old 11-27-2005, 09:19 PM
Nawth Chucka Nawth Chucka is offline
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I have to admit I'm glad to see this thread back on the front page, it was one of the most interesting things I'd read about in a long time; I remember the specimen at the Smithsonian taking me offguard and having to take a picture of it because it was miind-boggling. Reading this back in September put me in mind of that time and I thought of it again at the Charleston Aquarium in South Carolina last month; this leads me to wonder if the containment of a live specimen of the colossal squid could ever be where regular shmoes like me could see and be terrified and awed by it? I realize the scientific community would prefer to keep it as far from harm's way as possible if raised from a juvenile, etc.
I should point out that the aquarium in Charleston is two-stories tall and over 380K gallons. Presently some sharks, eels, sea turtles and other sea life find it quite comfy.
A very hearty welcome to our guest, Dr. O'Shea from me!
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Old 11-27-2005, 10:51 PM
lissener lissener is offline
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I've always had a small obsession with Architeuthis. I even managed to snag a copy of the Ellis book in galleys, before it was published. And I've followed--granted, mostly in the mainstream press--this whole story as it has developed.

It seems to me that Mesonchyoteuthis has been given the edge--insofar as it has been--based more on total bulk, and body size, than on overall length-including-tentacles.

Isn't this pretty clearly the case? I mean, is Architeuthis bigger by any measure other than overall stretched out length?
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  #46  
Old 11-27-2005, 11:12 PM
Terrifel Terrifel is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve O'Shea


Heavens, guys, gals; you're a bit rough on me aren't you? Someone just drew this thread to my attention.

First and foremost, anyone that has dealt with the press knows that you don't believe everything that you read! They do tend to sensationalise everything. If it doesn't have big hooks, big teeth, huge eyes, breathes fire, cable-cutting beaks and a forked tongue then it is simply not going to get a mention.
Ahoy there, Doc. Thanks muchly for the response; there's nothing like getting one's squid gossip straight from the horse's mouth, if that's not too much of a strain on the metaphor. As it happens, I do try not to indiscriminately believe everything I read in the press, which is why I originally started to wonder about some of the dubious and seemingly contradictory claims that have been made on this topic. It certainly seems that the press coverage on the subject has been fairly sensationalist, overly simplified and misleading. However, I honestly don't see where your own statements have been any more nuanced or informative. Quite the reverse, in fact; your remarks seem to deliberately and systematically distort the significance of the Mesonchyoteuthis specimen, both in the popular press and in your institution's own writings. Your Points 3 and 4 in Post 37 above seem to imply that you were concerned with publicity for your institution first and scientific accuracy second. This impression is furthered by your willingness to coin and promote a superfluous common name for the species, a tactic which can only increase confusion. I'd like to understand just how wrong I am about all this.

1) In Richard Ellis' 1998 book, he remarks that it was already considered likely that Mesonchyoteuthis' maximum size surpassed Architeuthis in terms of mantle length alone, based on the proportions of cranchiid squid. Were you aware of this when you presented the size of your "colossal squid" as an extraordinary discovery, rather than a simple and unsurprising confirmation of a previously held assumption?

2) The BBC article which first caught my attention mistakenly interprets your claim that Mesonchyoteuthis is larger than Architeuthis as indicating a greater total length, a fact reflected in the dreadfully inaccurate size comparison chart. Did you at any point emphasize to the press that your estimate of Mesonchyoteuthis' maximum total length is actually less than that of Architeuthis?

3) Why does your "Giant Squid and Colossal Squid Fact Sheet" on the TONMO website claim a maximum total length for Mesonchyoteuthis of 30 feet and a total length for Architeuthis of 37 feet, yet in Fig. 8 depict Mesonchyoteuthis as having a significantly greater total length than Architeuthis?

4) Why, in the same figure, does the image of Mesonchyoteuthis have significantly smaller eyes than Architeuthis, when the accompanying text claims that its eyes are larger?

5) Your post above mentions a submature 5m Mesonchyoteuthis weighing ~300kg. Is this a characterization of the recovered specimen? I'd run across accounts claiming that it was ~6m in total length.

6) Did the size of the intact Mesonchyoteuthis specimen's beak, compared with the beaks recovered from whale stomach contents, support the maximum mantle length projection of 4.0m?

7) In what journal is your manuscript likely to be published, and when might we expect to see it?

8) What does 1 + 1 equal at AUT?
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  #47  
Old 11-28-2005, 02:04 AM
Astroboy14 Astroboy14 is offline
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9) So... how much Calamari per critter we talking about here, anyways?
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  #48  
Old 11-28-2005, 02:46 AM
pool pool is offline
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Can someone just come out and say which squid will kick the other suid's ass?
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  #49  
Old 11-28-2005, 03:11 AM
lissener lissener is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Astroboy14
9) So... how much Calamari per critter we talking about here, anyways?
It's my understanding that the flesh of Architeuthis contains a very high concentration of ammonia. What wine would you serve with that?
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  #50  
Old 11-28-2005, 03:45 AM
Princhester Princhester is offline
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Terrifel I have to question whether you have ceased beating your wife. Also, although I accept you are probably a nice man and acknowledged expert on your own marital relations, your recent suggestion that your wife was blonde is unsupported by any actual photographs or papers and I therefore have to assume that your characterisation of her hair is probably sensationalist crap. Frankly, if she's blonde (and let's face it, she does have blonde hair), I think I'll just call my pet lump of coal "blonde" and be done with it. Further, while her name is rather long and awkward, it's hard to characterise the way you call her "Hun" as being other than a somewhat desperate attempt to sensationalise her sweetness.

I appreciate that none of the 121 of her closest friends, roommates and acquaintances at college that you have personally interviewed about her personal habits support the suggestion. But nonetheless, in the name of careful scientific inquiry, I don't think we can really afford to assume that you are correct to dismiss the rumours and myths that she was known at that time primarily for regularly taking on the whole football team at a single session.

I have no idea how you can seriously state that she had colossal feet based merely upon careful measurements of her verified shoe size when as you admit, they'd already been amputated when you met her.

Finally I would like to apologise most insincerely in advance to Terrifel if my characterisation of his gender and marital status about which I know nothing other than that it is quite certain that he is male, married and has a blonde wife, is off base.
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