Sat. Oct 31st, 2020

Fishing and Outdoors

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Scientists dissect rare large squid caught off White Island

2 min read
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The team defrosting the squid. Photo: Auckland Museum

Scientists had the rare opportunity to dissect one of the largest squid species in the world, caught off Whakaari (White Island).

The specimen was a mature female and is the largest Taninga fimbria on record, weighing 100kg.

AUT cephalopod expert associate professor Kat Bolstad led the research team in collaboration with Auckland Museum curator marine invertebrates, Wilma Blom, and Massey University marine biologist Emma Betty. The team dissected the 1.6-metre-long octopus squid on 23 July.

“This was a fantastic opportunity to examine a large, poorly-known deep-sea squid,” Dr Bolstad said.

The animal, which was already deceased, was collected by a fishing vessel in waters approximately one-kilometre deep and provides an important opportunity to study rare or lesser-known species of squid in the waters around Aotearoa.

“A Taningia or octopus squid is still one of the largest squid species we’ve identified,” said Blom.

“This animal has amazing photophores (bioluminescent light-producing organs) on two of the arms, as well as about 200 cat-like claws.”

The specimen was donated to Auckland Museum by professor Chris Battershill of University of Waikato for scientific research. The Waikato team is interested in biopsy samples to examine ecotoxicity of the waters around Whakaari after last year’s eruption.

“We know toxic elements like mercury, arsenic, and cadmium are released in geothermal emissions and there were fish kills directly after the eruptions,” Battershill said. 

“While it was an incredibly tragic event, the area around the island has become a unique ‘living lab’ and this rare specimen will help us understand a bit more about how far through the food chain everything is going.”

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