A New Zealand fishing crew has caught an adult colossal squid, a sea creature with eyes as big as dinner plates and razor-sharp hooks on its tentacles, an official said Thursday.
The squid, weighing an estimated 990 lbs and about 39 feet long, took two hours to land in Antarctic waters, New Zealand Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said.
The fishermen were catching Patagonian toothfish, sold under the name Chilean sea bass, south of New Zealand "and the squid was eating a hooked toothfish when it was hauled from the deep," Anderton said.
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The fishing crew and a fisheries official on board their ship estimated the length and weight of the squid: Detailed, official measurements have not been made. The date when the colossus was caught also was not disclosed.
Colossal squid, known by the scientific name Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, are estimated to grow up to 46 feet long and have long been one of the most mysterious creatures of the deep ocean.
If original estimates are correct, the squid would be 330 pounds heavier than the next biggest specimen ever found.
"I can assure you that this is going to draw phenomenal interest. It is truly amazing," said Dr. Steve O'Shea, a squid expert at the Auckland University of Technology.
If calamari rings were made from the squid they would be the size of tractor tires, he added.
Colossal squid can descend to 6,500 feet and are extremely active, aggressive hunters, O'Shea said.
The frozen squid will be transported to New Zealand's national museum, Te Papa, in the capital, Wellington, to be preserved for scientific study.
Marine scientists "will be very interested in this amazing creature as it adds immeasurably to our understanding of the marine environment," Anderton said.
Colossal squid are found in Antarctic waters and are not closely related to giant squid found round the coast of New Zealand. Giant squid also grow up to 39 feet long, but are not as heavy as colossal squid.
[The giant squid is really several species in the genus Architeuthis. A live Architeuthis was caught for the first time by a Japanese fishing boat in December, but died soon afterward.]
The first specimen of a colossal squid, a 330-pound immature female, was caught on the surface in the Ross Sea near the Antarctic coast in April 2004.