Stuff pandas! Giant squid could be conservation's ocean icon

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Cute and cuddly they may not be, but the Giant squid might soon become the panda of the marine invertebrate world...

When it comes to creatures associated with animal conservation there can be few more emblematic than the Giant panda. These bamboo-bothering animals attract huge interest in conservation causes worldwide, and their iconic image has been used as the logo of the World Wildlife Fund since it was founded in 1961.

Consider then how hard it is to attract interest in the conservation of marine invertebrate species when you don't have a fluffy, doe-eyed candidate with sufficient 'aah' factor to empty peoples' pockets – let's face it, the average sea cucumber or crab has more of an 'uurgh' factor to most would-be charity donors.

With this in mind a group of biologists have decided to try a different tack and have written a paper proposing that the Giant squid, Architeuthis sp. be adopted as the poster-boy of the marine invertebrate cause.

It may not be cuddly, (unless you happen to be a Sperm whale at 1000 fathoms) but the biologists reason that few other marine inverts generate such interest in the public's imagination.

The fact that such sea monsters exist is a source of endless fascination, particularly given the sparsity of our knowledge about them.

The team also point to the squid's ability to serve as a mirror to changing oceanographic conditions. Factors such as climate change and ocean acidification as well as the effects of man in the form of pollution, fishing and acoustic seismic exploration are all considered risks to both the squid's and many other marine invertebrates' long term survival prospects.

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