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20 Freaky Facts About the Giant Squid

Image credit: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-NC

Since ancient times, philosophers and naturalists have puzzled over this deep-sea enigma. There’s plenty we still don’t know about giant squid, but we’ve learned quite a lot—especially over the past 20 years. 

1. Giant Squid Have Eyes the Size of Frisbees.

Image credit: Smithsonian Institution, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

A staggering 10.5 inches across, a squid’s eyeballs lack the jelly-like substance that gives ours shape. Instead, they’re filled with water, which leaks out once the invertebrate dies. Its eyes “collapse… [like a] plastic bag”, according to biologist Dan-Eric Nilsson.

2. Females are Bigger than Males.

On average, females are around twice the size of (and around 10 feet longer than) their potential mates.   

3. Their Suckers Can Leave Ugly Battle Scars.  

Giant squid have to be wary around sperm whales; the marine mammals gobble them up en masse. While under attack, the squid often retaliate by inflicting large, circular wounds, courtesy of the serrated rings around each sucker.

4. Forty-Three Feet or So Seems to Be the Giant Squid’s Maximum Length.

At least, that’s what the available evidence tells us. Reports of 60- and 70-footers have never been verified scientifically.

5. Instead of a Proper Tongue, They Use a “Radula.”

This organ rests inside their beaks and is covered with seven rows of denticles—sharp, toothy, backwards-pointing protrusions. 

6. There’s Just One Known Species.

Until recently, many thought that there might be several varieties out there, but a genetic analysis performed in 2013 said otherwise: Architeuthis dux, researchers found, is the only species of this genus, as revealed by a comparison of 43 specimens from various seas and oceans. The giant squid gene pool seems abnormally shallow—all 43 subjects were pretty much indistinguishable in this regard. “It’s completely bizarre,” geneticist Thomas Gilbert said. “How can something be global but have so little variation?”

7. Their Tentacles Can Regenerate.

One giant squid corpse found in Canada in 1968 had a partially regenerated tentacle. According to a study of the specimen, "The regenerated club differed in length and width, and in the size and pattern of suckers, when compared with the normal tentacular arm." Many cephalopods besides squid are capable of this feat, including octopuses (and, yes, “octopuses” is a perfectly-acceptable plural, as are “octopi” and “octopodes”).

8. An Estimated 4.3 to 131 Million Get Eaten by Sperm Whales Each Year.

The squid regularly show up inside sperm whale stomachs and, not too long ago, a female was even seen carrying one around in her jaws. Approximately 360,000 of these mammals patrol our oceans. So, if every sperm whale on earth devoured an average of one giant squid per month, that means 4.3 million would be offed annually.

But some experts think this figure is way too low. Every single day, male whales put away 300 to 400 squid of various species, while females consume an outrageous 700 to 800 squid. Should Architeuthis represent even 1 percent of their diet, then the beasts eat 3.6 million daily. That’s 131 million squid killed annually.

9. This Cephalopod May Have Helped Give Rise to Sea Serpent Legends.

In one of Moby Dick’s more memorable chapters, an Architeuthis slithers towards Captain Ahab’s ship. Apparently, Herman Melville wasn’t a fan—he described the squid as a “vast, pulpy mass” complete with “innumerable long arms radiating from its centre, curling and twisting like a nest of anacondas.” Unflattering, right? But Melville wasn't alone. Many believe that this predator’s writhing, snake-like limbs have long inspired sea serpent yarns.

10. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea Grossly Overestimates the Giant Squid’s Usual Weight.

Jules Verne’s 1869 masterpiece remains impressive beyond all measure. After all, his novel predicted the invention of both scuba tanks and taser guns. But there are still a few gaffes to be found, particularly during the book’s most iconic scene. When hordes of giant squid attack, the narrator—a French professor named Pierre Arronax—estimates that each one must weigh “between four and five thousand pounds.” But as far as modern scientists can tell, the heaviest animals weigh around a ton—although most are less than 1000 pounds

11. Like All Squids, They’ve Got Three Hearts.

A median heart pumps oxygenated blood throughout the body, which it receives from two smaller ones that pump blood through the gills

12. Architeuthis Penises Are About a Yard Long.

Nobody has ever documented a pair of giant squid getting busy. But biologists suspect that males use their sex organs like syringes, injecting sperm into a female’s skin, where she stores the cells until her eggs need fertilizing. When that happens, the mom-to-be pulls them out of storage (though we’re not sure how).

13. The First Giant Squid Photo Ever Shot was Taken Inside of a Bathroom.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

In 1873, Newfoundland preacher Moses Harvey acquired a dead Architeuthis which he laid out over his shower curtain and preserved for posterity. He’d purchased this specimen for just $10 from a few local fishermen who’d ensnared it with their nets while out in Logy Bay.

14. Giant Squid Might Be Cannibals.

Bits and pieces of one Architeuthis showed up in one cadaver's stomach. But this doesn’t necessarily prove that giant squid dine on one another—some scientists speculate that the individual in question may have accidentally swallowed a few parts of itself somehow.

15. The Smithsonian Has Two On Display.

You can see them in the National Museum of Natural History’s Sant Ocean Hall. The pair represents both sexes—here’s a quick look at their 25-foot female (it was probably 36 feet while alive):

16. Their Brains are Donut-Shaped.

But that’s not the weird part. What’s truly bizarre (at least from our mammal-centric perspective) is the fact that its esophagus passes through the hole in the middle of its brain. Giant squids have to be really careful while swallowing, because if a given meal isn’t broken down into small enough pieces first, it can rub against the brain and cause damage.

17. Before 2004, Nobody Had Ever Snapped any Pictures of a Live One …

History was made by residents of the Ogasawara Islands (located 600 miles south of Japan) on September 30, 2004. Using a line baited with shrimp, zoologist Tsunemi Kubodera and whale-watcher Kyochi Mori attracted an Architeuthis about 2950 feet beneath their vessel. Five hundred still images were then snapped by a submerged camera before the squid took off—leaving behind an 18-foot severed tentacle.

18. … And The World’s First Giant Squid Video Didn’t Arrive Until 2006.

Kubodera would top himself that year when his crew videotaped a young female as they dragged her up to the surface. “We believe this is the first time anyone has successfully filmed a giant squid that was alive,” he said. “Now that we know where to find them, we think we can be more successful at studying them in the future.” Sadly, Kubodera’s prize died during the ordeal.

19. Jellyfish Help Architeuthis Hunt.

They say the enemy of your enemy is your friend. Certain jellyfish possess a dazzling talent called bioluminescence, which means that they can light themselves up and illuminate the ocean’s inky depths. Predators like giant squid eat many of the fish that hunt jellyfish. So, if a bioluminescent jelly finds itself under attack, it can issue a cry for help by flashing a distress signal, in the hopes that it might attract an even larger carnivore and scare off its assailant.

In 2012, an oceanographic team would capitalize on this display. After rigging a deep-sea camera with a lure built to resemble a brightly-lit jellyfish, Dr. Edie Widder and her colleagues filmed some majestic Architeuthis footage, as she explains in her terrific TED talk:

20. It’s Not the Only Monster-Sized Squid Out There.

Meet Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, better known as the colossal squid. Though Architeuthis probably exceeds it length-wise, this animal is heavier on average, has even bigger eyeballs, and wields swiveling hooks on its tentacles. Needless to say, this isn't a creature you’d want to mess with.

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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Dogs
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Dogs: They’re cute, they’re cuddly … and they can smell fear!

Today on Scatterbrained, John Green and friends go beyond the floof to reveal some fascinating facts about our canine pals—including the story of one Bloodhound who helped track down 600 criminals during his lifetime. (Move over, McGruff.) They’re also looking at the name origins of some of your favorite dog breeds, going behind the scenes of the Puppy Bowl, and dishing the details on how a breed gets to compete at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

You can watch the full episode below.

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Sploot 101: 12 Animal Slang Words Every Pet Parent Should Know
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For centuries, dogs were dogs and cats were cats. They did things like bark and drink water and lay down—actions that pet parents didn’t need a translator to understand.

Then the internet arrived. Scroll through the countless Facebook groups and Twitter accounts dedicated to sharing cute animal pictures and you’ll quickly see that dogs don’t have snouts, they have snoots, and cats come in a colorful assortment of shapes and sizes ranging from smol to floof.

Pet meme language has been around long enough to start leaking into everyday conversation. If you're a pet owner (or lover) who doesn’t want to be out of the loop, here are the terms you need to know.

1. SPLOOT

You know your pet is fully relaxed when they’re doing a sploot. Like a split but for the whole body, a sploot occurs when a dog or cat stretches so their bellies are flat on the ground and their back legs are pointing behind them. The amusing pose may be a way for them to take advantage of the cool ground on a hot day, or just to feel a satisfying stretch in their hip flexors. Corgis are famous for the sploot, but any quadruped can do it if they’re flexible enough.

2. DERP

Person holding Marnie the dog.
Emma McIntyre, Getty Images for ASPCA

Unlike most items on this list, the word derp isn’t limited to cats and dogs. It can also be a stand-in for such expressions of stupidity as “duh” or “dur.” In recent years the term has become associated with clumsy, clueless, or silly-looking cats and dogs. A pet with a tongue perpetually hanging out of its mouth, like Marnie or Lil Bub, is textbook derpy.

3. BLEP

Cat laying on desk chair.
PoppetCloset, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you’ve ever caught a cat or dog poking the tip of its tongue past its front teeth, you’ve seen a blep in action. Unlike a derpy tongue, a blep is subtle and often gone as quickly as it appears. Animal experts aren’t entirely sure why pets blep, but in cats it may have something to do with the Flehmen response, in which they use their tongues to “smell” the air.

4. MLEM

Mlems and bleps, though very closely related, aren’t exactly the same. While blep is a passive state of being, mlem is active. It’s what happens when a pet flicks its tongue in and out of its mouth, whether to slurp up water, taste food, or just lick the air in a derpy fashion. Dogs and cats do it, of course, but reptiles have also been known to mlem.

5. FLOOF

Very fluffy cat.
J. Sibiga Photography, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Some pets barely have any fur, and others have coats so voluminous that hair appears to make up most of their bodyweight. Dogs and cats in the latter group are known as floofs. Floofy animals will famously leave a wake of fur wherever they sit and can squeeze through tight spaces despite their enormous mass. Samoyeds, Pomeranians, and Persian cats are all prime examples of floofs.

6. BORK

Dog outside barking.
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According to some corners of the internet, dogs don’t bark, they bork. Listen carefully next time you’re around a vocal doggo and you won’t be able to unhear it.

7. DOGGO

Shiba inu smiling up at the camera.
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Speaking of doggos: This word isn’t hard to decode. Every dog—regardless of size, floofiness, or derpiness—can be a doggo. If you’re willing to get creative, the word can even be applied to non-dog animals like fennec foxes (special doggos) or seals (water doggos). The usage of doggo saw a spike in 2016 thanks to the internet and by the end of 2017 it was listed as one of Merriam-Webster’s “Words We’re Watching.”

8. SMOL

Tiny kitten in grass.
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Some pets are so adorably, unbearably tiny that using proper English to describe them just doesn’t cut it. Not every small pet is smol: To earn the label, a cat or dog (or kitten or puppy) must excel in both the tiny and cute departments. A pet that’s truly smol is likely to induce excited squees from everyone around it.

9. PUPPER

Hands holding a puppy.
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Like doggo, pupper is self-explanatory: It can be used in place of the word puppy, but if you want to use it to describe a fully-grown doggo who’s particularly smol and cute, you can probably get away with it.

10. BOOF

We’ve already established that doggos go bork, but that’s not the only sound they make. A low, deep bark—perhaps from a dog that can’t decide if it wants to expend its energy on a full bark—is best described as a boof. Consider a boof a warning bark before the real thing.

11. SNOOT

Dog noses poking out beneath blanket.
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Snoot was already a dictionary-official synonym for nose by the time dog meme culture took the internet by storm. But while snoot is rarely used to describe human faces today, it’s quickly becoming the preferred term for pet snouts. There’s even a wholesome viral challenge dedicated to dogs poking their snoots through their owners' hands.

12. BOOP

Have you ever seen a dog snoot so cute you just had to reach out and tap it? And when you did, was your action accompanied by an involuntary “boop” sound? This urge is so universal that boop is now its own verb. Humans aren’t the only ones who can boop: Search the word on YouTube and treat yourself to hours of dogs, cats, and other animals exchanging the love tap.

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