Thursday, June 30, 2005

Monster Squid identified

Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society’s (GONHS) marine section has tentatively identified the curious animal that was found by Kenneth Bagu and Victor Chipol on the seabed off the South Mole last week, based on the photograph in the Chronicle. (Not provided online)

Similar to the one in Gibraltar, this Cephalopod was washed ashore on Plum Island, Massachusetts USA, in 1980
The animal is a cephalopod; a squid of the family Histioteuthidae. This family can be identified by the presence of large photophores on the head, hood and legs, as could be seen in the photograph. Another interesting characteristic is that the left eye is considerably larger than the right.

There are six species of this family recorded for the Iberian Peninsula, of which Histioteuthis bonnellii (Férussac, 1835) best fits the proportions and characteristics seen in the photograph.

An inspection of the remains of the animal would have definitively confirmed its identity, and we presume that the The Gibraltar Museum will have kept the remains of this rare animal in alcohol for display, even though some of the tentacle fingers and soft parts that have been eaten by scavengers.

An oceanic species of temperate waters where it is found at depths between 500m and 1500 metres. In the Iberian Peninsula they have been caught with relative frequency off the Catalan coast with one male measuring 1290mm in length, the largest captured so far.

Many species of cephalopods have only been discovered for the first time in the stomach contents of Sperm Whales, Tunny and Swordfish, and their accidental discovery close inshore, like this one, is a mystery.

The recent invasion of jellyfish around our shores is an indication of undersea currents bringing marine life from far and deep close at hand.


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