02 May 2021

Giant squid

The Economist daily briefing highlighted the work of Dr Edith Widder, who has been recording giant squid.

Her lab’s paper gives the context:

The legend of the “kraken” has captivated humans for millennia, yet our knowledge of the large deep-sea cephalopods that inspired this myth remains limited.

They have some great hardware to figure out what’s going on. The remote camera system can extend 2 km down into the ocean, and record video for 48 hours. The figures in the paper are wonderful at explaining the setup:

Of course, it’s the stills of the squid that caught my eye. Figure 5, for example, estimates the arm of one squid to be 1.68 m long:

Before this, I wasn’t even sure if these animals were real or just exaggerations from sailors tales! I recommend watching the 5 minutes of video that is “Supplementary Materials 6”. It’s slightly spooky, a little tense, but more in a James Cameron style then Ridley Scott.

The paper is: Nathan J. Robinson, Sönke Johnsen, Annabelle Brooks, Lee Frey, Heather Judkins, Michael Vecchione, Edith Widder, Studying the swift, smart, and shy: Unobtrusive camera-platforms for observing large deep-sea squid, Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers, Volume 172, 2021, 103538, ISSN 0967-0637, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dsr.2021.103538.