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Rare giant squid is catch of the day Down Under

Squid October 18, 1997
Web posted at: 8:47 p.m. EDT (0047 GMT)

MELBOURNE, Australia (CNN) -- Deep sea fishermen trolling the waters off the coast of Tasmania recently scooped up three rare giant squid.

The discovery is making scientists squeal with delight and others squirm over the possibility that the creatures will be threatened by commercial fishermen.

The fishermen netted squid measuring about 15 meters (49.5 feet) from head to tentacle tip. Scientists are now thrilled about examining the rarely seen squid. It's not often scientists have the chance to examine the creatures, which live in complete darkness more than a kilometer (.62 mile) below the sea's surface.

"It's a huge animal," said zoologist Mark Norman, who said a pick-up truck is needed to tote the creatures. "It's got calamari rings the size of truck tires."

The secrets of how the creatures mate now has been finally unravelled by scientists at the University of Melbourne. Until now, scientists have been unsure how the giant squid reproduced. But underneath a tentacle on one of the females they discovered a small hole where sperm has been deposited.

See the monsters of the deep.
(wtn/NATURE magazine)

video icon 221K/11 sec. QuickTime movie

Less than 50 giant squid have been spotted in the last hundred years, and scientists have had little opportunity to build up a profile of their behavior. It is believed that they rarely have an opportunity to mate, and live isolated lives.

The only enemy of the giant squid seems to be the sperm whale. Dead whales have been found washed up on beaches with large sucker marks on their bodies, apparently from squid attacks.

As commercial fishermen delve deeper into the ocean, more of the animals are likely to become entrapped in nets.

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