The giant squid, a deep sea tentacled monster, may no longer be able to play hide and see with the scientific community. A team of biologists are planning to track it down to its nest and capture it .. on celluloid
IN-A bid to crack the elusive ways of the
giant squid, the National Museum of
Natural History (NMNH) under the
Smithsonian Institution in Washington,
us, is mounting a giant expedition in the
south Pacific near New Zealand, to
study the creature in its natural habitat.
Marine biologists from New Zealand
are assisting the American team. Clyde
F E Roper, a leading squid expert from
NMNH defends the idea of investing a
whopping sum of us $5 million for the
purpose, by calling it "a relatively tiny
investment when one thinks of the
potential for knowledge and information generated, particularly since we
know so little about
their biology and
behaviour." The tentacled monsters and
their habitat have
in mystery despite
innumerable expeditions to the deep.
experts have tried
have so far been
unable to lay their
hands on a live specimen. They are
as yet unaware about how these
creatures swim, eat, rest, court and
mate. All this will remain a mystery till
biologists are able track them down to
The giant squid is no ordinary being. It has the distinction of holding a number of world records. It is believed to be the largest animal without a backbone. Some specimens have measured 18-21 m in length. Its huge eyes are the largest in the animal kingdom, sometimes the size of a dinner plate. And its nerve fibres are so huge that they were initially mistaken for blood vessels.
But the fact remains that the monster largely represents our ignorance of the deep. Experts have so far mainly depended on the specimens captured by fisherfolk for their knowledge. Invariably, the animals retrieved from overwhelmingly full fishing nets are found squashed and battered to death. What is now expected to guide Roper and his team to the squids' den is the food chain. Findings have revealed that giant squids feed on certain types of deep sea fish. Squids in turn are eaten by sperm whales. The NMNH team intends tracking squids by following the fauna from both ends of the food chain, hoping that they could zero in on them somewhere in the middle.
Some experts are not very enthusiastic about meeting this boneless leviathan in its home ground. What puts them off are the ten large tentacles lined with sucker pads. Ellen C Forch, a fisheries biologist from New Zealand says, "I have a lot of respect for these animals", but she prefers to keep her distance and will be part of the monitoring team operating aboard a ship.
The team of scientists initially plan to send a robot down for an inspection Of the area. The group will then follow in a submersible called Johnson Sea-link operated by the Harbour Branch Oceanographic Institution in Fort Pierce, Florida, us. The Johnson Sea-link - a large acrylic sphere designed to provide maximum visibility - will carry four people to a depth of 1,000 m, where the creature is supposed to live. Aided by the submersible's robotic arms, lights and video cameras, the pursuit of the creature might rival a scene from a thrilling science-fiction movie and the best of all, it would be fact and not fiction. Says Roper, "If we find and film one (giant squid), it would be absolutely spectacular. Even a few minutes of filming would give us a lot of information."
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