You may be familiar with the kraken portrayed in “Moby Dick,” “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” or a small film franchise under the banner of “Pirates of the Caribbean,” but how much do you really know about the giant squid? Here are 5 fun facts you never knew about giant squid.
#1 – They have the largest eyes on the planet
Along with their close cousin, the colossal squid, giant squids have the largest eyes of any living animal and some of the largest eyes ever. Their dinner plate-sized eyes can detect the tiniest amount of light in the darkest depths of the deep ocean. They are especially adept at spotting bioluminescent light from animals that “glow” in the dark.
#2 – Giant squid can be 40 feet long
While rumors of 60-foot-long squid persist, the longest scientifically-verified giant squid was 43 feet long. Most of that length is from the 2 feeding tentacles. The mantle, which includes the squid’s head and body, may be up to 7 feet long. The length from the top of their head to the end of their 8 arms is usually no longer than 16 feet, meaning the tentacles may reach 25 feet past the tips of the arms!
#3 – Their only natural predator is the sperm whale
While juveniles may be preyed upon by pilot whales and deep sea sharks, adult giant squid are thought to only be preyed upon by sperm whales. Most adult sperm whales bear circular scars on their heads from the suckers on the ends of the giant squid’s arms and tentacles. While many historic images paint the giant squid as attacking sperm whales, sperm whale pieces have never been discovered inside a squid specimen, leaving scientists to conclude that the whale scars are self-defense wounds from their prey.
#4 – Their suckers are lined with “teeth”
The arms and tentacles of giant squids are lined with hundreds of suction cups that range in size from less than 1” to around 2” in diameter. The inside of the suckers is lined with serrated rings of chitin (a substance found in the shells of crabs and lobsters) that help attach the squid to its prey. They have a sharp beak for a mouth with a tongue-like organ covered in teeth called the radula. They must grind their food into tiny bits because their esophagus travels through the middle of their donut-shaped brain!
#5 – Giant squid only live 5 years
Cephalopods, which include mollusks and octopuses as well as squid, grow very quickly and die after a short life, usually after reproducing only once. Giant squid are thought to live less than 5 years, and they must live in areas of abundant food to grow so large so quickly.
(H/T: Smithsonian Institute, Wikipedia)