AUCKLAND, New Zealand, Sept. 16 (UPI) -- The second wholly intact adult colossal squid ever to be caught is no longer intact. Yesterday, a team of squid experts in New Zealand unthawed the massive sea creature and dissected it -- cut it to pieces in the name of science. They captured the historic process on video, live-streaming the whole operation. A replay is now available on YouTube.
The rare colossal squid specimen stretched 11 feet in length and weighed more than 770 pounds, and had to be transported using a forklift. For nearly a year, the squid has been frozen -- sitting on ice since it was first pulled from the Southern Ocean in 2013 by fishermen aboard the vessel San Aspiring.
Remarkably, the first-ever adult colossal squid, which was captured in 2007, was hooked by the same fishing boat -- pulled from the deep ocean off the coast of Patagonia. That specimen was preserved and is currently on display at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
The newest squid was cut to pieces, to give marine biologists a better understanding of how the squid's massive features work. Of particular interest to the scientists at Te Papa Tongarewa and the Auckland University of Technology are the squid's eyes, which are the size of dinner plates.
"The colossal squid eye is the largest in the animal kingdom," Dr. Kat Bolstad, a squid expert from AUT's Institute of Applied Ecology who led the dissection, told Radio New Zealand. "We will now have a good look at the retina and the eye lens."
The research team also wanted to try to solve other mysteries, like: what does a colossal squid eat? Scientists have known about colossal squid for nearly a century, having found bits and pieces of them inside the stomachs of sperm whales, but they have no idea what the squids themselves eat. Now they may be in possession of some clues.
The dissection unearthed partially digested material inside the squid's guts.
"The only thing that's known so far, based on isotope analysis where you use the concentration of nitrogen and carbon in tissue to determine where it sits in the food chain, is that it is a top predator, but we don't know what it eats," explained researcher Heather Braid.
Hearing about this remarkable sea creature, which lives thousands of feet beneath the ocean's surface, one might be apt to cry out: "That squid is giant." Indeed, that squid is giant; but it's not a giant squid. Giant squid are another elusive deep-sea monster. They stretch longer than colossal squid, but don't weigh quite as much.
Tissue samples collected during yesterday's dissection will help scientists sequence the entire colossal squid genome, and better understand how the giant and colossal squids are related on the evolutionary family tree.