Large Squid Fixing and Preservation Notes

By Steve O'Shea
Auckland University of Technology
New Zealand
June 10, 2003

The following is a basic step-by-step rundown of squid-handling procedures (from receiving the specimen to preserving it) that I have found effective for fixing giant cephalopods, particularly Architeuthis.

A large waist-height bench with raised lip, bench drainage, in a room with floor drainage, good lighting and ventilation are prerequisites in making the work environment a pleasant one.


Initial treatment history
Today most large squid are sourced from commercial fisheries (as incidental bycatch), and have been blast frozen at sea before being delivered to the laboratory. Stranded specimens are also almost always frozen as a means of temporary storage. Therefore most large specimens will need to be defrosted prior to examination and fixation. This is not a simple matter of removing them from a freezer and placing them onto a bench and waiting. Cephalopods weighing in excess of 70 kg (e.g., Taningia, Architeuthis, Mesonychoteuthis, Haliphron) can take several days to defrost this way, depending on ambient room temperature, during which time the more delicate parts of the animal, such as the tentacles, arm tips, suckers and sucker rings, fins and skin deteriorate, while the mantle may still be partially frozen. For best results accelerated defrosting of large cephalopods is recommended.

At 15—20°C a 150—200kg squid (mature female Architeuthis) can take 72 hours to defrost if simply left on a bench, but the time can be reduced to 48...
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About the Author
Steve O'Shea
Steve is an expert in the systematics and biogeography of cephalopods, and joined the staff in June 2002. He can be seen on the Discovery Channel documentary, Chasing Giants: On the Trail of the Giant Squid. For more information, see his Autobiography and Select Bibliography (2003). Dr. O'Shea lives in New Zealand.


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