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Rare Large Squid To Be Dissected For Scientific Research

Auckland War Memorial Museum’s Natural Sciences team will be dissecting a large squid at Massey University in Albany in conjunction with Waikato University, Massey University and Auckland University of Technology. This specimen, caught at 1000 m depth, in the Bay of Plenty, has been offered to Auckland Museum by the University of Waikato for correct identification and is being transported to Massey University Albany’s post-mortem lab for the squid dissection on Thursday 23 July.

A research team from the AUT Lab for Cephalopod Ecology and systematics (ALCES) led by Associate Professor, School of Science at Auckland University of Technology, Kat Bolstad, in collaboration with Auckland Museum Curator Marine Invertebrates, Wilma Blom and Massey University Marine Biologist, Emma Betty will dissect the massive 100kg gravid female in a rare scientific opportunity. This collaboration will enable shared knowledge and expertise from our leading scientists to better understand this amazing animal.

Originally reported to be a Giant Squid, it is in fact a large Taningia specimen estimated to be approximately 1.5m long.

Auckland Museum Curator Marine Invertebrates, Wilma Blom says, “A Taningia or octopus squid is still one of the largest squid species we’ve identified. This animal has amazing photophores (bioluminescent light-producing organs) on two of the arms, as well as about 200 cat-like claws.”

The squid, already deceased, was collected by a fishing vessel off Whakaari (White Island) and provides an important opportunity to study rare or lesser known species of squid in the waters around Aotearoa.

Kat Bolstad says, “Collating this type of data helps to inform improvements in our interactions with these species and is invaluable to understanding their ecology.”

This specimen has been donated to Auckland Museum by Professor Chris Battershill of Waikato University, for scientific research. The Waikato team is interested in biopsy samples to examine ecotoxicity of the waters around Whakaari after last year’s eruption.

Chris Battershill explains, "We know toxic elements like mercury, arsenic and cadmium are released in geothermal emissions and there were fish kills directly after the eruptions. While it was an incredibly tragic event, the area around the island has become a unique 'living lab' and this rare specimen will help us understand a bit more about how far through the food chain everything is going."

Footage of the dissection and interviews will be available after the dissection.

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