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Te Papa Gets Largest Ever Squid Specimen

14 March 2007


Te Papa Takes Ownership Of Largest Ever Colossal Squid Specimen

Mark Fenwick, technician, and Rick Webber (left), marine invertebrates curator in Te Papa's Tory St research facility. Photo is copyright of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.


A colossal squid, believed to be the first adult male specimen to be landed, was delivered to Te Papa yesterday. Unfrozen, the specimen is thought to weigh approximately 450kg and measure 10metres in length.

The squid is currently stored in a walk-in freezer in Te Papa’s Tory St research facility. When it was initially stored it filled about two thirds of a 1.5m2 bin that has a 1200 litre capacity.

The colossal squid was caught by a New Zealand fishing vessel, owned by Sanford Ltd, in the Ross Sea in early February. It was carefully brought on board the vessel and frozen in the ship’s hold. Prior to its transfer to Te Papa, it was stored in Sanford’s Timaru depot.

Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said the colossal squid will be a great source of interest to science and the people of New Zealand. “I applaud the careful work of the Sanford crew and the Ministry of Fisheries observer that delivered this fantastic creature in such good condition. As I said at the time of the find, the excellent co-operation between Te Papa, the Observer Programme, and the New Zealand fishing industry has made this once in a lifetime opportunity an exciting reality," Jim Anderton said.

Dr Seddon Bennington, Chief Executive of Te Papa, and Jim Anderton will sign a Deed of Gift in a ceremony on Tuesday 20 March at Te Papa’s Tory St research facility at 3.45pm. The signing will take place in front of the frozen squid specimen and media are welcome to attend.

"A far more detailed examination of colossal squid anatomy and proportions, including male anatomy and morphology, can now be undertaken. While few giant or colossal squids are caught with stomach contents, we are hoping there is some indication of what it has been eating," said Rick Webber, Te Papa’s marine vertebrates curator.

Mr Webber noted it is unlikely that the specimen will be unfrozen for several months as the research facility is currently undergoing renovations and a special tank will need to be designed and built to house the colossal squid.

Only a handful of colossal squid have been sighted. One was caught in the net of a Russian trawler in the Ross Sea at depth of 760m in 1981, another found near the surface in 2003, and another near South Georgia Island was brought up from a depth of 1625 metres on a toothfish longline in 2005.

Te Papa also holds a young female colossal squid specimen found in 2003, measuring 5.4 metres long – the largest recorded specimen at that time.

Colossal squid are found in Antarctic waters and are not related to giant squid (Architeuthis species) found around the coast of New Zealand. A key difference is the sharp swivelling hooks the colossal squid has in the suckers at the tips of its tentacles, suggesting it is an aggressive hunter. The giant squid has suckers lined with small teeth.


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