Last Reviewed and Updated on March 7, 2023
The mysterious and elusive giant squid has captivated the imagination of people for centuries; it might even be the animal that gave life to the mythological Kraken. Despite being one of the largest creatures on Earth, this deep-sea dweller remains largely unseen, and much is still unknown about the species. Let’s explore some of the most interesting and surprising facts about the giant squid that we do know.
About Giant Squid
The giant squid (Architeuthis dux) is a deep-sea-dwelling marine animal. It is a widespread species that can be found in all of the world’s oceans. They are particularly common in the North Atlantic Ocean, especially around Newfoundland and Norway. Giant squids are assumed to span across depths from 980 to 3,280 ft / 300 to 1000 m, but we don’t know this for certain.
Giant squids can grow up to more than 33 feet / 10 meters in length (including their tentacles) and can weigh up to about 606 lbs / 275 kilograms. They have a large head, which contains their brain and eyes, eight arms, and two long tentacles. The tentacles are lined with suckers and hooks, which are used to catch prey. The only hard part of their body is their beak.
Giant squids are carnivores and primarily feed on fish and other squid species.
Not much is known about the reproductive habits of giant squids, as they are difficult to study in their natural habitat. It is likely that they reach sexual maturity at around three years of age and that females lay large quantities of eggs.
The conservation status of the giant squid is currently considered as a species of least concern.
Interesting Facts About the Giant Squid
Dive deep into these fun facts about the giant squid.
Love learning about unusual animals? Check out our list of weirdest animal facts ever.
1. It is the longest known squid and second heaviest
The giant squid is a really long squid. They are the longest known squid species in the world, with a maximum confirmed length being 39–43 ft / 12-13 m. There are anecdotal reports of giant squids measuring more than 66 ft / 20 m, but these claims can’t be verified.
It is longer than the colossal squid; however, the colossal squid is heavier. Giant squid females weigh up to 606 lb / 275 kg, while the colossal squid is confirmed to weigh at least 1,091 lb / 495 kg, making them the heaviest squid.
2. They exhibit abyssal gigantism
Abyssal gigantism, also known as deep-sea gigantism, is a biological phenomenon seen in certain marine organisms living in the deep sea.
The phenomenon is characterized by the development of unusually large body sizes in some species compared to their shallow sea cousins. The causes of abyssal gigantism are not fully understood, but it is believed a variety of factors, such as low temperatures, increased dissolved oxygen concentrations, and limited food availability in the deep-sea environment, may influence it.
3. Giant squids have giant eyes
They may have the largest eyes of all living animals, with only the colossal squid having potentially larger eyes. The eyes of giant squids are at least 11 in / 27 cm in diameter with a 3.5 in / 9 cm pupil.
4. They maintain their buoyancy with ammonium chloride
Giant squid, as well as some larger squids, maintain neutral buoyancy in water with ammonium chloride solution that is found throughout their bodies. This solution is lighter than seawater.
Sea organisms maintain their buoyancy in different ways; most fish have swim bladders, some use fat in their livers, and some ammonium which can be present in only a part of their body or throughout their body (source).
Fun fact: the solution has an unpleasant taste, and since it is present throughout the giant squid’s body, it makes their flesh unpleasant tasting for human consumption.
5. Their age can be determined by “growth rings”
Similar to growth rings in a tree trunk, the age of a squid can be determined by growth rings in the statocyst’s statolith (a sensory receptor).
Extra fact: another animal where you can determine the age of the animal by counting the rings on their tusks is the dugong.
6. Females are bigger than males
Giant squids exhibit sexual dimorphism; the most noticeable difference is their size. Maximum weight for females is estimated to be 606 lb / 275 kg and only 330 lb / 150 kg for males. Males are also shorter; the largest male specimen was measured to be 10 feet / 3 meters shorter than the largest female.
7. Like other squids, they have a donut-shaped brain and three hearts
Squids have an interesting brain shape; their brains are donut shaped. What is even more interesting is the fact that their esophagus runs through the hole. If they would eat something that is too big, they would sustain brain damage, so chewing food is important. The same goes for giant squid as well.
They also have three hearts.
8. They have an ink sac
Like its smaller relatives, the giant squid possesses an ink sac. When it feels threatened, it can squirt ink to confuse its predators.
9. Giant squid don’t mate in the same way as most other squids do
They are much like other squids in most of their anatomy; however, males lack a hectocotylus, an arm that is specialized to store and transfer spermatophores to the females. How exactly the mating happens in giant squid is still a mystery.
10. They may be able to regenerate lost limbs
A giant squid that was found in Newfoundland showed signs of regenerative abilities in one of its tentacles (source).
11. Sperm whales are giant squid’s main predator
Sperm whales are one of the top predators of giant squids. Much of the research on giant squids stems from examining the squid remains found in sperm whale bodies. Other predators include pilot whales, southern sleeper sharks, and killer whales.
12. They may be, at least occasionally, cannibalistic
It’s no secret that they prey on other species of squid, but occasionally they may even turn on their own. Upon examining the stomach of one giant squid, remains of other giant squids were found, hinting at the possibility these creatures are cannibalistic, at least on occasion.
13. Aristotle was one of the first to describe them
Aristotle, a Greek philosopher who lived in the fourth century BC, was the first (known) person to describe a large squid species that was most likely the giant squid.
14. First photograph of a live adult giant squid was taken in 2002
Last on the list of facts about the giant squid is proof of their elusiveness. Their existence may have been known since ancient times, but it took a long time for the first photo of a live adult giant squid to happen. The first photo of a live adult was taken on 15th January 2002 on Goshiki beach, Amino Cho, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan.