Why is the Giant Squid so giant?

Steve O'Shea

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Interesting distinction between neoteny and paedomorphosis, John - I was hoping this thread/question would be picked up at some point, as it was left dangling; thanks. I'd like to explore this a little further myself, but right now I don't have time on my side. If anyone else has anything to contribute then PLEASE jump in.

Re this prehistoric 'mega squid' - that was a hypothetical case I gave (that it could be shrinking in time, as opposed to increasing). There is a tendency for people to think of the ancestral Architeuthis as being smaller than the modern-day animal, attaining its present size by way of gradual or spontaneous increase in size (depends whether you believe in periods of stasis followed by rapid bursts of change/evolution [punctuated], or the gradual acquisition of characters/change of character states [eg., size] through time). Who knows ...... But the animal could equally be decreasing in size as our fossil record really is quite poor for these animals/squid in general/and for octopus almost non-existent.

The maximums for the modern-day Architeuthis, almost certainly of which a single species, Architeuthis dux, exists world wide, are:
Length (mantle; female) 2.5m
Length (mantle; male) 1.7m

Total length (female, relaxed, not stretched like a rubber band, incl tentacles): 13m
Total length (male, relaxed, not stretched like a rubber band, incl tentacles): 10m

Total weight (female): 275kg
Total weight (male): 150kg

These are slightly larger than the largest specimens I've ever seen (of 96 of them). Even though 60 foot, or ~ 20m, is frequently cited as the max, and the specimen on which this was based was actually a New Zealand specimen that washed ashore back in the 1880's (or thereabouts), the specimen was NOT measured with a ruler, tape measure or yard stick - it was PACED (and this is clearly stated in the original publication) - this is overlooked in any subsequent citation to it. Moreover, this specimen almost certainly had been regurgitated from a whale stomach (in those bad old days) and was partially digested (and thus its length exagerated further, as they go to mush). Its tentacles were probably stretched out the thickness of a rubber band to make it larger/longer still (this can be done) ..... and the chap who 'paced' it probably took 'baby steps' and then exagerated some. People need their monsters, but the fact is they do not grow this large.

No specimen remotely approaching this size has been recorded since, anywhere, and so many have been measured world-wide now. All specimens we get in New Zealand are fully mature, and thus unlikely to grow any larger (they're not babies); those caught overseas/stranded are similarly almost always fully mature, and agree with the maximum sizes we get in NZ specimens (if not being slightly smaller/shorter).

Trying to reduce the size of this animal is, however, just about impossible - people refuse to believe it is actually smaller than it is. No matter what I do the same old hogwash is perpetuated in nearly every report ... and if its not its total length that they blow out of proportion then it is the size of its eyes, beaks or suckers...... It would be so much easier to raise $$ to find this animal if I was prepared to perpetuate the nonsense ... maybe I should just continue like everyone else?

Cheers
O
 

Fujisawas Sake

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Steve,

Ah, well... I will admit that I would like to think that there were some monsters out there. For some reason, people need their monsters. Where I live the local legend is Bigfoot. A distant cousin has the Loch Ness Monster. I can name a million cryptozoological legends, each more fantastic than the last. From seas serpents to the chupacabras, I think that people need their monsters. I think that somehow these stories play on some deep seated desire to be part of something much bigger than ourselves. Go see "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers"... Samwise has a monologue which I think defines this to a tee.

I don't blame you for getting a bit frustrated. My first love was astronomy, and while I believe in life on many, many other worlds, I can't get myself to believe in the standard UFO stuff. Oh, I would LOVE to see a flying saucer complete with aliens, and there very well may be some out there, but the reality of science so often gets buried in the pseudoscience of legend and folklore. It frustrates me because science can be rewarding and so much more interesting than people are willing to believe. But the folklore can make for some great reading, and fun, if you're willing to treat it as such.

Heck, a sixty-foot Archeteuthis would be a sight to say the least. Maybe they exist, maybe they don't. Let's not detract from the fact that the deep sea has incredible lifeforms the likes of which we probably have not even considered yet.

If this doesn't make you feel better, then we could always fake an ammonite sighting and sell it to the Discovery Channel! :P

Just spending time waiting for the eventual cephalopod takeover,

John
 

Steve O'Shea

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Fujisawas Sake said:
Just spending time waiting for the eventual cephalopod takeover
...I don't think this was a good month to quit smoking. How long have we got?

That ammonite is out there ... not necessarily on this planet .... but it would sure be a buzz to go looking for it. I've often dreamed of doing the sub thing down 9000 metres off northeastern New Zealand (into the Kermadec Trench) .... it's never been explored you know .... only problem is the deeper you go the reduced likelihood of finding the ammonite (implosion) [unless that shell is fluid filled]. Spirula manages to do it ... astronomical depths .... and you can crumble its shell in your hands (it's not that strong) .... so just maybe there's hope for us yet. In fact, why don't we build a submersible in the shape of a Spirula shell??? Hmmmmm.
 

Fujisawas Sake

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Steve O'Shea said:
...I don't think this was a good month to quit smoking. How long have we got?
Steve,

According to Animal Planet's "The Future is Wild", we have about 200 million years before the the Squid Dominion. You can find out more at:

http://animal.discovery.com/convergence/futureiswild/futureiswild.html

I like specials like these... I have two books by Dougal Dixon; After Man: A Zoology of the Future" and The New Dinosaurs: An Alternative Evolution. Yeah, for the most part its sci-fi, but evolution never stops, and its fun to dream about what lies ahead. Oh, and Steve, your 120 foot squid is only 200 million years away, and the trees belong to the Squibbons...

You really think that there are still ammonites out there?
 

Steve O'Shea

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I think the chance of finding a live ammonite today is greater than the chance of a 120-foot-long terrestrial squid in 200 million years, unless there are rather serious changes in the atmosphere and gravity, and if so I don't think we'll have squibbons. Some many-armed thing could occur on land, look like a squid, but likely through some quirk of evolutionary convergence only. ...imagine that slime trail :yuck:

Maybe ammonites weren't even squid .... maybe the shells are simple buoyancy chambers of an extinct mega-slug. You have to wonder about those asymmetrical ones don't you ... perhaps they were benthic, screwing themselves into the sediment .... maybe they still are out there in the abyss.
 

Fujisawas Sake

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Steve,

Chances are that the climate in 200 million years will be a lot different. As far as gravity, well... I doubt it, unless Earth loses some serious mass.

As far as cephs making the transition to land... Well, evolution is a harsh mistress. The types of selective pressures needed over time to create a land-walking ceph... Hmm... Hate to say this, but that's a real brain scratcher. I can't completely discount the possibility, only because I can't shake the feeling that Molluscs share a common, if not INCREDIBLY distant, relationship with the Arthropods and Annelids. The move to land would be tumultuous at best, and how they would solve the problem of non-skeletal muscle based movement... What would result would be akin to calling a therapsid reptile a human... It wouldn't be a cephalopod anymore, only a very, very derived descendant.

Well, anyway... About your ammonite idea: What if they were gastropods, but of the Order Pteropoda? A massive group of sea butterflies may sound farfetched, but so does the idea of undersea "lakes" and chemosynthetic-based ecologies. What if they were related to the Scaphopoda? If they were, let's hijack a sub and start digging!! :D

Also, what if the ammonites were actually paraphyletic groups of molluscs? Maybe some may have been cephs, others gastros, or even some other, long extinct Order? The shells could have been homologous across the early mollscan line. Food for thought

What really bakes my noodle is, what if some of these shells were INTERNAL? :shock:

:lol: *sigh* Only time will tell. Thanks for the reply!

Sushi and Sake,

John
 

Steve O'Shea

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The pteropod idea is not so far-fetched John - it is something I've considered myself. Moreover, I am absolutely convinced that a number of ammonite shells were completely internalised - we had this discussion on an earlier board (since gone ... and I regret now not having transferred the content over).

It would pay, if you want to continue with this theme (internal vs external and anything to do with ammonites) to start up a separate topic on this board. By doing this we can clearly separate the two topics (giant squid and ammonites), and maintain succinct threads. I'm sure Phil would be pleased to see this subject up and running again also.

There's much to be added on this subject. I actually have Neil Landman (AMNH) visiting early next year (oooooh....that's tomorrow), and one of the things I wish to discuss with him is this internal/external business, and more info on the aptychus as a jaw or gizzard plate. The 'radular' (adj) teeth described for some of these ammonites are also more similar to gizzard teeth ..... I'll try and get him to bring some specimens with him so I can do some photography and post here. For all the world these structures resemble those we see in some opisthobranchs today (eg., Philine spp.).... There is no way that the buccal musculature associated with operating these jaws/aptychi could be accommodated within the last chamber of the ammonite, if their basic body plan was anything akin to that of Nautilus (I realise the relationship is distant). My only concern re the scaphopod/slug/gastropod/pteropod relationship is this siphuncle.

I'm rambling, but you've sparked my interest in the subject again.
Cheers
O
 

Fujisawas Sake

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:shock:

Whoops~! You're right! I'll start a new thread.... Or.. I'll start posting on another...

:P
 

Armstrong

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Melissa the correct answer is species. There are over 200 species of Squid in the ocean and each of these species grow to different lengths, sizes, and have different characteristics. Archetuthus which i dont think i spelled right but who cares is one of the species that can grow up to about 55 to even 60 feet in length including the 2 long prey grabing tentacles. Thats why Giant Squid are so big its because of the species type and this kind of species of quid that grows very large just happen to grow the biggest in size out of all the Squid species there are.
 

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