Saturday, February 24, 2007

Giant Colossal Squid (450kg) Caught in New Zealand

WELLINGTON - New Zealand fishermen may have caught the largest Colossal squid ever found -- weighing around 450kg (992 pounds) and with rings the size of tyres.

The adult Colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) was caught by fishermen long lining for toothfish in deep ocean off Antarctica, New Zealand Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said on Thursday in announcing the catch.

The squid was still alive when caught and was eating a hooked toothfish when hauled aboard, Anderton said in a statement.

"The squid was almost dead when it reached the surface, and the careful work of the crew was paramount in getting this specimen aboard in good condition," Anderton said.

"The crew stopped winching in the longline for two hours, while the squid was manoeuvred into a cargo net and hauled aboard," he said.

The squid was frozen in the ship's hull and brought back to New Zealand for scientific examination.

"The colossal squid has just arrived in New Zealand and it is likely that it is the first intact adult male Colossal squid to ever be successfully landed," Anderton said.

Colossal squid are one of the most mysterious creatures in the deep ocean, growing up to 12 to 14 metres (36 to 42 feet) in length. Anderton said the squid would be photographed, measured, tissue sampled, registered and preserved intact.

"On-going examination of this giant will help to unlock some of the mysteries of the deep ocean. Even basic questions such as such as how large does this species grow to, and how long does it live for are not yet known," he said.

Local media said early estimates put the squid at 10 metres (30 feet) in length and weighing 450 kg (992 pounds) -- 150 kg (330 pounds) heavier than the next biggest specimen found.

"I can assure you that this is going to draw phenomenal interest. It is truly amazing," squid expert Steve O'Shea at Auckland University of Technology told local media.

O'Shea said if calamari were made from the Colossal squid's rings it would be the size of tractor tyres.

Anderton said Colossal squid were found in Antarctic waters and were not related to Giant squid (Architeuthis) found around the coast of New Zealand. Giant squid also grow up to 12 metres (36 feet), but are not as heavy.

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