What's the deal with the "colossal squid?"

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.

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?

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

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!

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?

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?

  1. So… how much Calamari per critter we talking about here, anyways?

Can someone just come out and say which squid will kick the other suid’s ass?

It’s my understanding that the flesh of *Architeuthis *contains a very high concentration of ammonia. What wine would you serve with that?

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.

Please let me be the first to say: Huh?

Nah, it’s cool; Princhester is merely responding to my widely quoted BBC interview wherein I stated: Princhester’s wife is no longer the most beaten wife out there. I’ve got a wife who’s even more beaten, and not just more beaten but an order of magnitude blonder.”

Seriously though, it’s a fair point, and I’ll try to tone myself down for GQ.

Let me be second! Huh?

I should explain something about that fact sheet; it was prepared very hastily at the time of discovery, to minimise erroneous reporting; it is quite obsolete, given what we know now. I see your point re the eye size being smaller, or appearing to be; we’d chance the head shape quite considerably now; the entire head is eye, one each side; the small black thing is the lens. Re the BBC image - I am afraid the responsibility for that rests solely on their shoulders; we near had kittens when we saw it also. Re the total length of the *Architeuthis * at 2.25m ML, and *Mesonychoteuthis * at 4m, I’m afraid that the tentacles are too short on that *Archi * image (if you go back to dimensions I posted earlier); you have to realise that this was put together over a day or so, and I grabbed whatever images I had available at the time, or quickly sketched same; I do understand that it is misleading, but in all honesty I’d not looked at that fact sheet since; I’ll get it revised. It’s one thing talking about a hypothetical *Mesonychoteuthis * of ~ 4m ML, and another thing altogether obtaining the proof that they do or probably could attain this sort of length; there’s another squid off California, Galiteuthis phyllura, that ‘probably’ leaves *Architeuthis * for dead in the mantle length and ferocity stakes, but we don’t know for sure either as (to the very best of my knowledge) no mature individual is known (its mantle ‘might get up to 2m’); they also say that *Architeuthis * gets up to 5-or-so metres mantle length, but this simply is not true. As an aside, I consider Richard to be a friend.

Re those beaks; the lower rostral length on the 2.5m ML female was 37mm; we have them to 49mm, although most are around the 42-46mm mark. Whether this supports a 4m ML female, or a smaller male with a disproportionately larger beak I cannot tell you; in the absence of an intact mature to submature male neither possibility can be discounted. We’ve just translated a Russian paper in which numerous additional specimens are described; there is reference to hectocotylisation in the male, but no figure of the total male or female provided.

You ask so many questions. The answer to your final is 42.

Heh. Squid fight.

You left out splitting infinitives:

is right up there with “to boldly go.”


Just to pour fuel on the flames. :slight_smile:

Sorry, I know that the “I have nothing to add” threads were much earlier and I missed that portion of the thread, but may I add…Right the hell on Terrifel .

Not only is this perhaps the best GQ thread I’ve seen in a loooong time, but you actually managed to draw the person who’s statements are in question onto the board and into your thread!

Well done, just absolutely great. My hat is off to you.

A question, if I may, Dr. O’Shea: I’ve read, here and there, about the sucker scars on whales indicating much either much larger squids with suckers proportional to their size, or an unknown squid with oversize suckers. Haven’t been able to find a reference to the actual size od the scars. Do you have any relevant information? Thanks.

Yeah, I’m fairly impressed with the results myself, actually. Dammit, why does this sort of thing never happen in my many threads about Drew Barrymore?

Seriously, I couldn’t have hoped for a better response. I had the opportunity to have my criticisms addressed by the professional authority in question, who (in regard to my confusion over the factual data, at least) seems to feel that I had some valid points. If Dr. **Steve O’Shea ** wouldn’t mind suggesting some links to information on the subject, that would be great. I still think there’s a debate lurking here about the manner in which science and the press interact, but that’s probably well outside the scope of General Questions. Sorry, Plynck; apparently there’ll be no squid fight here.

Anyway, I now have a vested interest in making sure that Dr. *Steve O’Shea ** keeps posting to the SDMB. Apparently by the act of starting this thread, I have somehow managed to get elected Resident Cephalopod Authority , despite the fact that my expertise is mostly limited to their flavor. So now I desperately need to get Dr. O’Shea signed on as a member, so that he can be the one to field questions about whether a giant squid and an Antarctic cranch squid, if they teamed up, would be able to defeat Batman. If this thread has proven anything to me, it’s that there’s an alarming paucity of molluscophiles on the SDMB.

Besides, the guy replied to my sarcastic jab by making a Douglas Adams reference; I can’t ignore that. And he has a 300kg glowing squid in his refrigerator. Now that he’s actually posting here, I don’t want to spook him off.

*Although the answer is: Yes, absolutely.

I’ll pony up half of the $14.95, I’m willing to bet salt & vinegar crill is expensive by the thousand-gallon jug.

Sorry; have been a tad pre-occupied, hence the silence.

I’m all for reading the opinions of others with respect to the press, ethics, and reporting standards and agenda, but with the ever-increasing day-to-day administrative grind I find myself increasingly insular and reluctant to contribute to discussion. I’ve been on autopilot for a couple of years and am just a tad burnt out.

Five of the students here (Masters and Doctoral) are dealing with what we affectionately refer to as ‘charismatic megafauna’ - the turtles, sharks, whales and squid. Many more are undertaking less-sexy, albeit equally important research on more conventional subject matter. To sell both the student (their career) and the science (this determines funding/sponsorship) it is necessary for me to use this charismatic stuff to get my message across. I’ve been doing this so long now that I don’t give it further consideration, unless challenged, as I have been on this forum. Perhaps I need to rethink my strategy; if you have an alternative I will certainly consider it. As I use with repetitive monotony the line that “we use this charismatic megafauna to lure people into far-more important issues like conservation”, it renders me predictable, and in this game, with industry focussing on economic rather than ecological sustainability, and extractive resource exploitation, I cannot afford to be predictable!

I’ll read whatever anyone says, and assimilate. I might even discuss it. But right now I’m buggered and I’m about to pour a glass of wine and just unwind for the evening.

Mapache, you asked about the size of sucker scars on whales indicating much either much larger squids, or an unknown squid with oversize suckers’. The scar tissue grows with the whale, so a small whale that ate a large squid produces a large whale with a huge sucker scar. I sincerely doubt that there is another species out there that inflicts very large wounds/scars on the whale, based on the morphology and size of squid beaks retained within the stomachs of (nowadays stranded) cetaceans. If there was a larger species (or larger individuals of a known species) out there, we would expect to find one of two things:

  1. given squid beaks darken with maturity, light-pigmented beaks of a very large, as yet unknown species of squid in the stomach contents (in the event that juveniles of this hypothetical unknown squid were consumed),
  2. VERY large beaks within the stomach that surpass the size of any currently known species, that cannot be attributed to any known species based on morphology.

We find neither. Sadly (we need our monsters) I doubt that some unknown denizen of the deep, a super squid, exists.

Signing out for the eve.