Kraken attack. Illustration by Pierre Denys de Montfort.
Kraken attack. Illustration by Pierre Denys de Montfort.

This fantastic beast is one of the most elusive creatures in the sea.

You’ve probably heard of giant squid (Architeuthis dux); they have inspired many seafarer’s tales of seamonsters. The gigantic creatures can grow up to 43 feet (13 meters) and weigh over 1000 pounds (455 kilograms), dwarfing most sea creatures, and are among the largest of all invertebrates. However, despite their name and size, giant squid are not the biggest of all squids. That title goes to the colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni).

The largest cephalopod ever caught. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Unlike the giant squid, which inhabits ocens around the world, the colossal squid is confined to the cold southern sub-Antarctic and Antarctic oceans. Thus, fewer specimens have been collected, so it is not as well documented or understood as its cosmopolitan counterpart.

Nonetheless, based upon the size of squid beaks recovered from the stomachs of sperm whales, scientists estimate colossal squid can grow up to 45 feet (14 meters) in length and weigh over 1091 pounds (495 kilograms). So not only are they longer than giant squids, but they are also much heavier and bulkier.

Colossal Squid on Display at Te Papa Museum in New Zealand. Photo by Y23.
Colossal Squid on Display at Te Papa Museum in New Zealand. Photo by Y23.

At 11 inches (27 centimeters) across, the colossal squid has the largest eyes in the animal kingdom and might even have the largest eyes of all animals that have ever existed.

On top of that, the colossal squid has hooks on its tentacles and arms positioned among its serrated suckers. These hooks are designed for grappling slippery prey, such as the Antarctic toothfish; as well as defending against predators, such as the sperm whale.