Monster of the Deep!
People used to think of the giant squid as a terrible sea monster and made up tales about it.
- Those overblown tales of a sea monster sprang from sailors' fears of the sea—and their love of telling tall tales.
- Hundreds of years ago, wooden sailing ships were fairly small, compared to today's huge engine-powered ones. Those early sailing ships could be easily tossed about—and sunk—in a large storm at sea.
- Besides, no one had explored the depths of the oceans, and most people had little idea of what creatures lived in it.
- So sailors had a natural fear of the ocean and of what lived beneath its surface. After all, when they set out on a voyage they never knew if they'd return safely.
- Most sailors loved to tell stories. Maybe the tales were true, or at least, started out true. But as the sailors talked about what they'd seen, the truth got exaggerated a bit—or even a lot. The men (they were almost always men) added their own, made-up, details.
- Some of them told stories about a many-armed sea monster.
- And in each telling, that many-armed sea monster got larger and larger. (After all, a super-sized, horrifying monster made for a far better story.) Some sailors called the creature the kraken (CRACK-un). Some said the kraken was as big as an island—more than a mile across. Some said it could not only pull a ship to the bottom of the sea, but it also could eat the crew.
So imagine: At one time, sailors dreaded seeing the giant squid, but these days, squid scientists head out to sea HOPING to see it!
Photo: © clipart.com
More on the Giant Squid
- It seems to eat different kinds of smaller squid and deep-sea fishes.
- It may migrate to deep-sea canyons twice a year to mate.
- The adult females are larger than the adult males.
Fun Facts About Other Squid
- There are nearly 500 species (kinds) of squid.
- Squid have excellent eyesight and a complex brain and nervous system, which help a squid sense what's going on around it—and react quickly. Could this explain why scientists have had no luck getting near a giant squid?
- Many species of squid have special cells in their skin that let the squid change how they look. They may make themselves striped, spotted, or bumpy. Some can change their color entirely. This lets them hide in plain sight, attract a mate, or even "tell" a predator to get lost.
- Many species of squid also have light-producing cells, which make the squid look almost like a flashlight blinking on and off in the water. What a way to startle a predator!
- On the underside of a squid's two tentacles and eight arms are suction cups. These suckers have a ring of tooth-like points or even sharp hooks. Few kinds of prey can wiggle free from these weapons.
- To grab fish or other prey, many species of squid shoot out their two tentacles at lightning speed. Then the squid's arms pull the prey toward its mouth. There its parrot-like beak tears the prey apart.
- Most squid are jet-propelled! They shoot through the sea by squirting water out of a tube called a funnel. Some can even jet clear out of the water. Fishermen off the coast of Mexico have had these "flying squid" suddenly plop down in their boats by mistake.
- Sometimes squid shoot out a black "ink" when escaping from a predator.