Floating about 12 miles (19 kilometers) off Port Salerno, Florida, a stirring, intact giant squid gave a small fishing party a shock around 11 a.m. Sunday—and could give researchers new insights into the species, which has never been studied alive, scientists say.
“We looked at it and all three of us were like, Holy mackerel!” recreational fisher Robby Benz told WPTV. “It didn’t seem it had been dead long, the tentacles were still moving and it was sticking to you when we got it in” the fishing boat.
After reaching shore, the men called wildlife authorities, and the then dead giant squid soon found a home at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville.
Giant squid, the world’s largest invertebrates, are thought to reach lengths of up to about 60 feet (18 meters) and can weigh nearly a ton. The Florida specimen, though, is about 25 feet (8 meters) long and weighs about 200 pounds (90 kilograms).
Like other giant squid, the new catch is white with patches of red skin, which contains chromatophores—pigment-containing cells that can change colors rapidly, presumably for communication or camouflage.
Giant squid are found in oceans worldwide, but the animals have seldom been spotted in the Atlantic Ocean off Florida, said Roger Portell, an invertebrate paleontologist at the natural history museum, who’s helping to preserve the squid.
“These are very rare animals,” Portell told National Geographic News. “They tend to be in very deep waters, so we don’t see them normally.”
The new specimen, he added, is “exceptional.”
Benz, the fisher, said he was partly motivated to haul in his giant catch because he didn’t think anyone would believe him if he didn’t.
“Nobody believes a fisherman,” he told WPTV.