Giant squid captured on video!

I am beside myself with excitement. After hundreds of years of hunting, scientists have finally caught the elusive giant squid — Architeuthis — live on camera.

How did they pull off this historic feat? Well, a Japanese team sent a robotic camera down to 3,000 feet, just off the Bonin Islands. They also sent down a hook baited with a fresh Japanese Common Squid, as well as a mesh bag filled with “freshly mashed euphausid shrimps” — mmmmmmmm — as an odor lure. Then after days of waiting, pay dirt: They felt an enormous tug, as a 26-foot-long giant squid grabbed hold.

And hey — you know all those supposedly crazy stories told by half-deranged sailors about giant squid attacking their boats? Maybe those aren’t so half-cocked after all, because Architeuthis turns out to be one hell of a brawler. It struggled for four solid hours to get free, alternately jetting away at full speed, then zooming back in an attempt to subdue the robot. As the New York Times reports:

The giant squid, the researchers conclude, “appears to be a much more active predator than previously suspected, using its elongate feeding tentacles to strike and tangle prey.” The tentacles could apparently coil into a ball, much as a python envelops its victims.

To truly fry your mind, check out the time-lapse-photography video of the squid in action posted at MSNBC. Keep in mind, while you’re looking at it, that the span of those tentacles is larger than most people’s front yards. Yiiiii! For additional fun, check out the paper written the scientists published today in The Proceedings of the Royal Society (PDF version here). The thing that cracks me up is that they actually don’t have a whole lot of data to report; the main thing, I gather, is that they get the totally cosmic street-cred of being able to write a paper with the title “First-ever observation of a live giant squid in the wild”.

I wonder if any other scientists will be able to copy this technique — and catch another one? On the other hand, it might not be a good idea to piss these things off too much.

(As regular blog readers can tell by the fact that I’ve not posted in a week, I’ve been positively slammed by work. So a huge shout-out goes to all the folks who emailed me to make sure I’d heard the news — including John Tinmouth, Andrew Griffin, Robin Sloan, Guillermito, Justin Yoshida, Tony Blow, Koutnik, Alexander Khost, Ian Daly, Peter Krekel, Rob Toole, Jeff MacIntyre, Joe Adiletta, Brian Corcoran, Lisa Fortin, Jonathan Korman, Andrew Rickard, Sam Feinson, and Bret Dawson!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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