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Colossal Squid Defrosting and Examination 30 April

16 April 2008


Colossal Squid Defrosting and Examination Set For 30 April 2008 at Te Papa (Tory Street);
to Be Filmed for Discovery Channel Special

The largest known specimen of colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni ), caught by the San Aspiring in the Ross Sea and gifted to Te Papa in February 2007 by the Ministry of Fisheries, is scheduled for defrosting and examination on Wednesday 30 April at Te Papa’s Tory St facility.

Natural History New Zealand will be filming the entire process for a Discovery Channel in-depth documentary programme to be released worldwide in late 2008 as part of their support of the Te Papa colossal squid preservation programme. Discovery Channel is also helping to support the research project.

‘Dr Steve O’Shea and Ms Kat Bolstad of Auckland University of Technology and Dr Tsunemi Kubodera of Japan’s National Museum of Nature and Science have been invited by Te Papa to lead the examination of this unique and important specimen’, said Dr Carol Diebel, Te Papa’s Natural Environment Director.

“Discovery is proud to be a partner in this important project. It is rare to be able to study this kind of specimen up close. We hope scientists will be able to learn more about the colossal squid and provide valuable information for future research,” said Paul Gasek, Senior Science Editor, Discovery Channel.

The squid, weighing 495kg and estimated to be 6 - 8m long, will be removed from storage in a walk-in freezer and placed in a temporary tank filled with a salty (saline) solution. Salty water freezes at a lower temperature than freshwater thus ensuring the solution in the tank will remain at or below zero degrees while melting the freshwater block of ice surrounding the squid. This results in a gradual defrosting process that may take up to three to four days but helps to keep the squid in good condition for dissection and preservation.

The scientists will examine the squid’s general anatomical features, take measurements, remove the stomach (and its contents), beak and other mouthparts; and determine the sex of the squid. In addition, the scientists will take tissues samples for DNA analysis. They will have to work quickly as the specimen, once defrosted, will start to degrade or rot.

Finally the specimen will be fixed in a formalin solution for 3-4 weeks, prior to being placed in a purpose-built tank for display at Te Papa in the latter quarter of this year.

‘Interest in the colossal squid has been huge and while the general public won’t be able to access the confined space of the thawing and dissection laboratory, they will be able to watch the thaw and examination through live webcam which will be available from Te Papa’s and Discovery Channel’s websites. In addition, we have arranged with the visiting scientists to provide an exciting day of family friendly public lectures, with video footage, on Thursday 1 May at Te Papa. Topics include The Big Suckers; The Colossal Squid : The Dissection; The Elusive Giant and Colossal Squids; Here Be Monsters : A Dark Journey to the Ocean Underworld. We are also developing suitable display options for the squid at Te Papa before the end of the year’, Dr Diebel said.

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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