The massive, shoot-covered carcass of a giant squid washed up on the rocky shore of Scarborough Beach in Cape Town, South Africa on Tuesday (August 16). The beast, which was almost 14 feet (4.3 meters) long, was the second giant squid to appear on a beach in the region this year, according to the South African news site news24 (opens in new tab).
The last known giant squid (Chief Architect) to washing ashore near Cape Town appeared about 6 miles (10 kilometers) northwest of Scarborough Beach, on Long Beach in Kommetjie, on April 30, Live Science previously reported. Che cephalopods measured approximately 11.5 feet (3.5 m) long. By comparison, the largest giant squid ever seen was a whopping 43 feet (13 m) long, and some studies suggest the creatures could potentially reach lengths of 66 feet (20 m), although squids of this size were never noticed.
The squid that washed up on Scarborough beach this week appear to have been different A. dux specimen, said Mike Vecchione, an invertebrate zoologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, located at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. “Although other large squids exist, I’m pretty sure this is a true giant squid,” he told Live Science in an email.
Other squid species, including the colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni), rival A. dux in terms of size itself and some scholars argue that Architect the genus actually includes different species of giant squid, not A. dux alone according to the Smithsonian (opens in new tab).
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Beak reveal of giant squid species (by marine biologist present) – Scarborough sunk this morning. pic.twitter.com/9Mr9QbjZmiAugust 16, 2022
Without examining its internal organs, it’s hard to guess how the Scarborough Beach squid died, Vecchione said. “Note that most of the skin is abraded and some of the arms are broken, but this (especially the skin abrasion) may be the result of washing up on the rocky shore.” The remaining skin on the squid’s mantle – the muscular sheath, in which his organs are located – shone ghostly white in sun.
It’s possible the squid ventured into shallow, coastal waters to feed and were hit by a ship’s propeller, “but that’s hard to prove without witnesses,” said Dylan Clark, a marine scientist and curator at South Africa’s Isiko Museum news24. “The literature … suggests that they come out into shallower waters because they exhibit a behavior called diel vertical migration. In other words, they venture into shallower waters in the evening to feed and migrate back to deeper waters during the day.”
Giant squid typically live in cold waters about 1,640 to 3,280 feet (500 to 1,000 m) below the ocean’s surface and use their dinner plate-sized eyes to peer through the inky darkness, according to the Smithsonian. Based on where the animals were washed ashore, scientists believe that squid inhabit all the world’s oceans, but are most commonly found off the coast of New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, in the eastern and western North Atlantic, and in the South Atlantic along along the African coast.
“Revolutions of Architect off the South African coast are not uncommon at all,” Vecchione told Live Science. “This is one of the few places in the world where they show up regularly.”
Officials collected tissue samples from the squid carcass on Scarborough Beach and these will soon be examined by researchers at South Africa’s Isiko Museum, Greg Oelofse, coastal manager for the City of Cape Town, told news24. Scientists could use such samples to sequence those of animals DNA and conduct chemical analyzes to detect contaminants and stable isotopes — non-radioactive chemical elements with different numbers of neutrons in their nuclei — in his flesh, Vecchione said. The isotopic analysis would provide clues to the squid’s feeding history, as well as a study of the animal’s digestive system.
In addition, scientists could determine how old the squid was based on its reproductive organs and statoliths, small mineralized masses that sit inside sensory organs in the squid’s head and accumulate “growth rings” over time, he said. Vecchione. Previous studies of these statoliths suggest that giant squid can live up to about 5 years, according to the Smithsonian.
“The availability of information on giant squid is relatively poor and is based on either dead or dying animals that have been washed ashore or caught in commercial trawls,” Clarke told news24. The newly discovered squid from Scarborough Beach will join a collection of giant squid specimens at South Africa’s Iziko Museum, which were largely acquired through such strandings or bycatch during bottom trawls, he said.
Originally published on Live Science.