SCIENTIFIC NAME: Architeuthis
MEANING: "Dominant squid"
RANGE: Oceans worldwide
LENGTH: 2-30 meters (6-100 feet) or more
WEIGHT: Up to 2,000 kilograms (2.2 tons).
DIET: Fish, molluscs, and crustaceans
Not all giant squids are giants, but some do reach lengths of nearly 30 meters (100 feet) as measured from the tail fin to the tips of the outstretched tentacles. Most commonly, giant squids are 2 meters (6 to 7 feet) long, still quite large by human standards. Sightings of this giant go back hundreds of years, but it remained more legend than fact until it was scientifically described by Danish zoologist Johan Steenstrup in 1857.
The giant squid has eight thick "arms" and two longer tentacles extending forward from the head. The two long tentacles have clusters of suction disks at their ends and are used to capture prey and bring it back to the eight arms. The arms hold the prey with double rows of suction disks and carry it toward the squid's parrot-like beak. There the prey is shredded by the animal's radula, a raspy "tongue".
The eyes of the giant squid are as much as 22 centimeters (9 inches) in diameter and are among the most advanced eyes of any invertebrate.
The giant squid usually propels its rocket-shaped body slowly through the water with the fins at its back end. By forcing water through a mobile funnel just below its head, however, it can accelerate rapidly, turn quickly, and move like a jet in almost any direction. Sometimes the squid emits a foul, inky substance, creating a liquid "smokescreen" to elude its primary predator, the great sperm whale.
Squid shells are comparatively small and fragile and are rarely found as fossils.