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Baby Giant Squid Caught For the First Time, Researchers Say

Oct 28, 2015 03:12 PM EDT

For the first time, three young giant squid (Architeuthis dux) were caught off the coast of Japan. This finding sheds light on the early lifestyles of these otherwise elusive sea creatures.

After capturing the not-entirely-giant squids, a team of researchers from the University of Hyogo, the National Museum of Nature and Science, Kagoshima City Aquarium and the Shimane Prefectural Fisheries Technology Center in Japan performed a genetic analysis. Their study was recently published in the journal Marine Biodiversity Records.

"This is the first time in the world that such young giant squid were found, and it has helped us understand what they are like this early in their life stage," Toshifumi Wada, co-author of the study from the University of Hyogo, told The Wall Street Journal.

The squid were caught between April and June of 2013. The first young squid measured 140.8 millimeters in length and weighed about 44 grams. This individual was found off the coast of Kyushu Island in southern Japan. The other two baby squids were caught together in the south-western Sea of Japan. They both measured 332.0 millimeters in length and weighed 390.63 and 356.95 grams respectively, according to the researchers' study. All three specimens had similar characteristics consistent with those known of A. dux, according to the published study.    

Giant squids are deep-ocean dwelling marine animals that can grow to be exceptionally large, compared to other shallow-water dwelling squids. Giant squid can grow to more than 33 feet in length, and the largest ever recorded of these creatures was almost 43 feet in length. Like other squids, they have eight arms and two longer feeding tentacles, which they use to catch their prey. The large squid prefer to feed on deep-sea fish and other squid species, and their only known predators of adult giant squid are sperm whales.

Generally, adult giant squids live independently. Because two babies were found together, this suggests that they may travel in groups during the early stages of their lives, the researchers explained in their study.

Not much is known about a giant squid's reproductive cycle. However, we do know that females can produce thousands of eggs at one time. Then, like other squids, the eggs are laid in hidden places throughout the ocean floor, either under rocks or in crevices. Because it is hard to protect all the eggs and the squids leave after laying them, most end up being found and eaten by predators. The incubation period for giant squid eggs can be upward of eight weeks long. After hatching, the squids already know how to swim, but they have to quickly learn how to forage and defend themselves. 

Giant squids have a widespread range and habitat, and can be found in all of the world's oceans. 

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