Colossal Squid to come out of the Freezer
Sunday, April 27 2008 @ 02:32 AM EDT
Contributed by: terrytvgal
Technicians in New Zealand have postponed until Monday the delicate process of defrosting a colossal squid caught in Antarctic waters last year.
The Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni specimen, caught in February in Antarctic waters, is 10m (33ft) long and weighs over half a tonne.
The riddle for technicians at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa centre has been how to thaw the squid without any parts of its body starting to rot.
The thawing and subsequent dissection will feature in a live webcast.
The procedure begins Monday in Wellington.
Interest in the dissection from the wider scientific community, never mind the public, is likely to be huge.
The colossal squid is remarkable for its size, but also for how rarely it has been sighted.
It was identified first in 1925 from two tentacles found in a sperm whale's stomach. These deep-diving toothed whales regularly do battle with Mesonychoteuthis and other giant cephalopods such as the giant squid of the Architeuthis genus.
Since 1925, only a few Mesonychoteuthis have been sighted, all in the seas around Antarctica.
Very little is known about how and where they live. The one certainty is that they are fearsome opponents, with big beaks and unique swivelling hooks on the club-like ends of their tentacles.
One of the first tasks is likely to be ascertaining the squid's gender.
This one is believed to be male; and females are thought to grow larger than males.
So if this one is a he, presumably there are even bigger and heavier shes somewhere in the cold Antarctic waters.
The specimen has been frozen in a fishing net inside a plastic big container.
"We have to remove the container around it, manoeuvre the frozen squid into the defrosting tank, then carefully remove the net as it defrosts," said Carol Diebel, Te Papa's natural environment director.
"It's a very delicate procedure."
Later in the week, scientists will give public lectures about their initial results.
Once thawed and examined, the squid will be embalmed and preserved.
BBC News Website
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website
Published: 2008/04/26 19:18:36 GMT
© BBC MMVIII
Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa