Giant squid on display at museum

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Giant squid on display at museum

 

One of the world's best specimens of the giant squid Architeuthis dux has gone on display at The Natural History Museum in London.

The colossal cephalopod was caught by a trawler off the Falkland Islands and is about 8.62 metres/28 ft in length.

The species can reach a maximum size of up to 13m - five metres longer than a double decker bus.

Researchers at the museum have managed to successfully preserve the squid and fit it inside an enormous 10m/30' long display case.

Jon Ablett, curator of molluscs in the Museum's Department of Zoology told the BBC that the cephalopod was known as Archie, after it's generic name Architeuthis.

 

CASCO's squid tank had to be lifted in on a crane.

Ablett said that it took the museum staff several months to prepare the squid for display: "The first stage was to defrost it; that took about four days. The problem was the mantle - the body - is very thick and the tentacles very narrow, so we had to try to thaw the thick mantle without the tentacles rotting."

Aquarium industryThe display case was made by CASCO, a specialist aquarium construction company, and the same team who produced the cases artist Damien Hirst used to display his controversial sharks, cows and sheep pickled in formalin.

 

The tank is around 30 feet in length and is made from acrylic.

CASCO told Practical Fishkeeping that it has been working closely with the Natural History Museum for over a year to provide a suitable tank to house its specimen giant squid.

Matthew Bubear, CASCO's Managing Director told us that it had produced a 31 foot tank for the squid from acrylic with a metal frame and did the job at cost-price "in support of the museum's excellent work".

CASCO constructed the tank from 8 acrylic panels, which where 2" thick. Each of the panels was bonded together using a special museum 'seam' technique which in layman's terms means invisible bonds. The tank weighed 2.5 tonnes empty and a crane was required to lift the tank into the museum, along with the help of a large team of lifting professionals.

Said Bubear: "We are delighted to have been involved with such and exciting project that will be open to the public for many years to come.

"These special projects comprise a significant portion of our annual revenue and help compliment our work in other divisions such as shop fitting, etc."

Architeuthis dux

Architeuthis dux is a member of the family Architeuthidae and can reach up to 18m/59' in length, so although the specimen is pretty humungous, it's not the largest ever known to occur.

At around 25cm/10" across, the species has the largest eyes in the animal kingdom.

 

The CASCO team move the tank into place so the squid can be preserved.

The squid occassionally wash up on beaches, but are often decomposing and missing various pieces of their anatomy so they do not make very good display specimens for museums.

Back in 2003, a large a large decomposing lump of flesh the size of a small bus washed up on a beach in Chile.

Subsequent tests on the DNA of the flesh showed that it was the remains of a giant squid.

You can find out more information on this species of squid, and many other cephalopods, on the excellent TONMO website.