Dear Constant Readers,
After writing a recent blog about Mighty Mesonychoteuthis, I began wondering again about how big the giant squid itself got. I was somewhat surprised a few years ago when Dr. Steve O'Shea said that "Architeuthis is not known to exceed a mantle length of 2.25 meters" on his fact sheet. He had examined himself over 100 specimens of the genus, so obviously his word carries a lot of weight. The record weight was 275 kg (600 lbs) and the length was 13 meters (42 feet) according to him as well. There does seem to have been a lot of exaggeration concerning the overall length of the squids because of the stretchy nature of the tentacles.
Using this list of published records by Michael Sweeney, however, we are able to see that there are a number of reports exceeding the mantle length and weight:
November 30, 1861. Canary Islands: 15-18 foot (4.5 to 5.5 m) body length.
October, 1871. Grand Banks, Newfoundland: 15 foot (4.5 m) body and weighing around 2000 pounds (~900 kg). The jaw was preserved and used for the syntype for Architeuthis princeps by Verrill.
1872. Coomb's Cove, Newfoundland: 10 foot (3 m) body.
December 1872. Bonivista Bay, Newfoundland: Estimated 14 foot (4.25 m) body.
October 26, 1873. Conception Bay, Newfoundland: 10 foot (3 m) body. A photograph accurate enough for measurements was taken.
December, 1874. Fortune Bay, Newfoundland: 12-13 foot (~3.75 m) body and head length.
October, 1875. Grand Banks, Newfoundland: Weighed 1000 pounds (450 kg).
November 21, 1877. Trinity Bay, Newfoundland: 11 foot (3.35 m) head and body.
November 2, 1877. Thimble Tickle, Newfoundland: 20 foot (6 m) head and body. Once regarded by Guinness as the world's largest invertebrate.
December 2, 1878. Notre Dame Bay, Newfoundland: 15 foot (4.5 m) head and body.
November 1, 1879. Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland: 9 foot (2.75 m) body.
May 23, 1879. Lyall Bay, New Zealand: 9'2" (2.8 m) mantle length.
June 30, 1886. Cape Campbell, New Zealand: 8'3" (2.5 m) mantle length.
1930? Goose Bay, New Zealand: 11 foot (3.35 m) body length.
1945. Pahau River Mouth, New Zealand. >1 ton (>900 kg)
August, 1961. Azores: 2.4 m (7'11") mantle length.
May 14, 1993. Morne Brabant, Mauritius: 4.5 m (14'9") mantle length, 240 kg (530 lbs)
It should be noted that there were at least a couple hundred other squid size records exist and the average size is certainly nowhere near these sizes. So what on earth is happening here? Perhaps some of them can be dismissed as being incorrectly typed (mantle length might be total length for the last one) or exaggerations, but I don't think that they can all be explained this way. Judging from these records, it would appear that Newfoundland experienced a very odd series of extremely large Architeuthis squids in the late 19th century. Is there some sort of connection between the stranding frequency and the very large size? I will say that O'Shea's maximum size, while not the historical maximum, is a lot more appropriate for the type of animal likely to be encountered. Who knows if we'll see an Architeuthis with a 4 or 5 meter mantle again...if anybody actually ever had before.
The story continues here.