Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Florida's giant squid

On July 3rd, Robert Benz, Joey Asaro, and Paul Peroulakis went fishing off the coast of Florida. Little did they know what they would find about 12 miles offshore. "We looked at it [and] all 3 of us were like, 'Holy mackerel!' It didn't seem it had been dead long, the tentacles were still moving..." recounted Benz (watch news video here). It was a giant squid longer than their 23' boat. The men managed to get the 200lb creature on board and quickly brought it in to the commercial docks. The squid was put it on ice and the authorities were notified. At a field office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the animal was necropsied. It was then released to scientists at the University of Florida's Museum of Natural History. Invertebrate paleontologist Roger Portell (1st image) declared the 8-armed (3rd image, close-up) specimen to be exceptional, missing only a single tentacle and minus any other trauma, and a rare find. Giant squid usually live in water 300' to 1,000' deep, and this one was found floating on the surface of the ocean at a depth of 170' and much further south than their usual habitat. They injected it with formalin and are now soaking it in a bath of 10% of the preservative solution. As part of their research collection, the squid has drawn the attention of biologists who intend to analyze its genetic make-up. Depending on how successfully they are able to preserve it, the UFL curators hope to put the giant beast on public display. “It looks nice, it’s still in fabulous shape and it’s big. It would be really cool to exhibit something like this, if it turns out that it preserves well enough and we can find a way to exhibit it so that it doesn’t damage the specimen," says John Slapinsky, malacology collections manager. Perhaps the best way to preserve it - which would not be precluded by the formalin already used - would be to plastinate it (slideshow here), as was done at the Paris Natural History Museum.

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