Fishing for Architeuthis, the giant squid

Lots of people have been emailing me with the news about this filmed sequence showing a giant squid snagged on a deep line. Did you know that the paper is freely available online (pdf)? It's very cool. The researchers were jigging for squid with a 1km long line, snagged one by a tentacle, and then watched for the next four hours as it struggled to get free.

The squid's initial attack was captured on camera (figure 3a) and shows the two long tentacles characteristic of giant squid wrapped in a ball around the bait. The giant squid became snagged on the squid jig by the club of one of these long tentacles. More than 550 digital images were taken over the subsequent 4 h which record the squid's repeated attempts to detach from the jig. For the first 20 min, the squid disappeared from view as it actively swam away from the camera system. For the next 80 min, the squid repeatedly approached the line, spreading its arms widely (e.g. figure 3b) or enveloping the line. During this period the entire camera system was drawn upwards by the squid from 900 m to a depth of 600 m (figure 3g). Over the subsequent 3 h, the squid and system slowly returned to the planned deployment depth of 1000 m. For the last hour, the line was out of the camera frame, suggesting that the squid was attempting to break free by swimming (finning and/or jetting) away from the system. Four hours and 13 min after becoming snagged, the attached tentacle broke, as seen by sudden slackness in the line (figure 3c versus d ). The severed tentacle remained attached to the line and was retrieved with the camera system (figure 3e). The recovered section of tentacle was still functioning, with the large suckers of the tentacle club repeatedly gripping the boat deck and any offered fingers (figure 3f ).

I've put the figure they describe online. It's a thing of beauty: an 8meter (26 foot) beast attacking the bait. Remind me not to go swimming below 500m, OK?

(figure on Pharyngula)