Photo: Giant squid attacking bait squid

In this photo released by Tsunemi Kubodera, a researcher with Japan's National Science Museum, a giant squid attacking a bait squid is pulled up by his research team off the Ogasawara Islands, south of Tokyo, on December 4, 2006.

Photograph courtesy Tsunemi Kubodera of the National Science Museum of Japan/AP

Map

Map: Giant squid range

Giant Squid Range

Fast Facts

Type:
Invertebrate
Diet:
Carnivore
Size:
33 ft (10 m)
Weight:
440 lbs (200 kg)
Group name:
School
Did you know?
A giant squid's eye can be as big as a beach ball.
Size relative to a bus:
Illustration: Giant squid compared with bus

The giant squid remains largely a mystery to scientists despite being the biggest invertebrate on Earth. The largest of these elusive giants ever found measured 59 feet (18 meters) in length and weighed nearly a ton (900 kilograms).

However, their inhospitable deep-sea habitat has made them uniquely difficult to study, and almost everything scientists know about them is from carcasses that have washed up on beaches or been hauled in by fishermen. Lately, however, the fortunes of scientists studying these elusive creatures have begun to turn. In 2004 researchers in Japan took the first images ever of a live giant squid. And in late 2006, scientists with Japan's National Science Museum caught and brought to the surface a live 24-foot (7-meter) female giant squid.

Giant squid, along with their cousin, the colossal squid, have the largest eyes in the animal kingdom, measuring some 10 inches (25 centimeters) in diameter. These massive organs allow them to detect objects in the lightless depths where most other animals would see nothing.

Like other squid species, they have eight arms and two longer feeding tentacles that help them bring food to their beak-like mouths. Their diet likely consists of fish, shrimp, and other squid, and some suggest they might even attack and eat small whales.

They maneuver their massive bodies with fins that seem diminutive for their size. They use their funnel as a propulsion system, drawing water into the mantle, or main part of the body, and forcing it out the back.

Scientists don't know enough about these beasts to say for sure what their range is, but giant squid carcasses have been found in all of the world's oceans.

Invertebrate Features

  • Photo: Organ pipe coral

    Coral

    It's reef madness in this colorful gallery of coral formations.

  • Photo: Cluster of orange cup coral

    Photo Gallery: Coral Reefs

    About 80 percent of all life on Earth is found in the oceans, which cover 71 percent of the planet's surface. Take a look at how colorful life under the sea can be.

  • Photo: A lobster and crab on the seafloor

    Lobster

    Learn more about these popular crustaceans that some think of only as a meal. Find out the sizes that these sea creatures are capable of attaining.

  • Photo: Sea cucumber

    Sea Cucumber

    Learn how these amazing echinoderms deter predators by snaring them with sticky threads and even hurling their internal organs about.

Please select a test to run

Animals

The Innovators Project

See more innovators »

From the Magazine

  1. Photo: Two adult preen, Ireland

    Gannets Pictures

    Champion divers but clumsy landers, doting parents but hostile neighbors—northern gannets abound in contradictions.

  2. Photo: Silent Ural owl

    Estonia's Ural Owls

    Photographer Sven Začek provides an intimate view of this large raptor.