Friday mystery object #131 answer


On Friday I showed you some specimens that I had to identify in the museum last week, and I asked if you had any idea what they might be:

Perhaps unsurprisingly, several of you did have a very good idea.

They look a bit bony, but they’re not bone. They look a bit toothy, but they’re not teeth. They look a scutey, but they’re not scutes. They are in fact from an animal that doesn’t have bones, teeth or scutes.

Denis Copilas, Matt king, henstridgesj, Barbara Powell and David all managed to spot that these are the hooks from a very large squid, I think probably the Colossal Squid Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni Robson, 1925.

The reasoning for my identification is that the Colossal Squid is unusual in having rotating hooks on the ends of their two tentacles and I think that the smaller, more circular and flatter-based hooks at the bottom of the image match the morphology of rotating hooks. The larger and relatively narrower hooks at the top of the image appear to be the non-rotating hooks of the eight arms.

Pen and wash drawing by malacologist Pierre Dénys de Montfort, 1801, from the descriptions of French sailors reportedly attacked by such a creature off the coast of Angola.

As you might have guessed, Colossal Squid are big. In fact, they are considered the largest known invertebrate, with a captured specimen weighing 495 kg and measuring around 10m when alive. Despite this impressive bulk, they really don’t measure up to the Kraken legends of yore and there’s little chance of one pulling a ship to its doom.

Instead they apparently hang around in deep abyssal waters in the Southern Ocean and catch unwary fish on their hooks. They also get eaten by Sperm Whales, which may be a similar length to the biggest Colossal Squid, but they weigh around 25-30 times as much. Not great odds.

There are some fantastic images of the Colossal Squid and lots of information about them available from the online Colossal Squid Exhibition - I suggest taking a look. While you’re at it, I also suggest listening to Jonathan Coulton’s song ‘I Crush Everything’ which is about a giant squid and its doomed love-affair with boats.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s