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Giant squids, the kind referred to in Jules Verne's 1870 novel, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, have been known to exist for many centuries. However, finding the world's largest invertebrate in its natural habitat had proved a little elusive. Now, thanks to some patient Japanese researchers, we can all finally get a glimpse of this magnificent cephalopod!
Finding the massive animal was not an easy task. To maximize their chances of spotting it, researchers from Japan's National Science Museum in collaboration with local public broadcaster NHK and America's Discovery Channel decided to look in the waters east of Japan's Chichi-Jima Island- An area where the creature has been spotted twice - In 2006 and 2012.
The search was undertaken in a specially built submarine that was lowered 2,066 feet into the dark cold waters of the northern Pacific Ocean. It took 400 hours and more than 100 trips for the three-man crew sitting inside the cramped submersible to find one. But once they located the approximately 9-10 feet long invertebrate who Japanese researcher Tsuenmi Kubodera described as 'shining and beautiful', they were able to film it non-stop for a full 23 minutes.
That's because the giant squid spent the entire time hanging vertically in the water, munching away on the bait of a smaller species of squid that the deep sea expert had laid out for it. Once it was done, the animal came to check out Kubodera's camera but soon decided that it did not like the taste, and swam away.
What surprised the scientists the most was the animal's stunning color - a combination of silver and gold that kept changing. Also amazing were its eyes that looked eerily like those of a human, but were so massive that it made the squid appear almost alien-like. According to the researchers, it is thanks to the size of these, that the animal is able to see its prey in the pitch-dark environment it inhabits. And, while 9 feet is impressive enough, Tsuenmi believes the squid would have measured a whopping 23-feet, had two of its longest tentacles not been missing!
The fascinating footage that was captured in mid-July 2012 has been morphed into a Discovery Channel documentary entitled Monster Squid: The Giant is Real" , and is scheduled to air at 8.00 pm on January 27th, 2013. Be sure to mark the date on your calendar and tune in.
Part of the cephalopod family, giant squids sport eight arms, two of which are longer than the rest and armed with suckers and sharp teeth that help pull the prey into their strong beak to be devoured. The formidable animals who even eat other squid, are known to be quite aggressive and attack anything in sight. In 2003, French sailor Oliver de Kersauson encountered one that tried to take down his sailboat by wrapping its tentacles around it - Fortunately, it swam away once the boat stopped moving. So who preys on these giants? An animal even larger and one that can dive as deep - The sperm whale.