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Asia Dive News : Giant squid finally captured on camera

A giant squid, the elusive leviathan that inspired Jules Verne, has been observed alive for the first time, scientists reported on Tuesday.

The creature, which is as long as a public bus from tentacle tip to tail, has been filmed by Japanese researchers using a baited underwater camera, shedding new light on the lifestyle of one of nature's most enigmatic living wonders.

The first observed specimen measured about 8 metres in total, with 5 metre tentacles. Even so, it was something of a titch by the standards of the species as a whole, with the largest yet washed ashore, in New Zealand at 20 metres more than twice as big.

The giant squid, Architeuthis dux, has been known since the 16th century from dead specimens washed up on beaches or snared by fishermen's nets, and from the occasional fleeting sighting when it has neared the surface. But it had never before been seen in its natural deep-water environment.

Its size, fearsome tentacles and beak have captured the imaginations of sailors and writers, for whom it has become an emblem of the terrors of the deep. In Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Captain Nemo's submarine Nautilus was attacked by a "squid of colossal dimensions" that almost destroyed the vessel.

Occasional attacks on shipping have been reported, most recently in 2003 when a yacht skippered by Olivier de Kersauson was gripped during a round-the-world race.

Giant squid have also been found in the stomachs of sperm whales, which feed on the creatures. Giant squid beaks have been found inside sperm whales, which have in turn been found sporting huge tentacle-inflicted wounds. Almost nothing, however, is known about where and how Architeuthis feeds, or about how it behaves in its natural habitat.

That has now changed, after Tsunemi Kubodera of the National Science Museum and Kyoichi Mori of the Ogasawara Whale Watching Association used sperm whale migration patterns to guide them to the best place to watch for giant squid.

Tagging of the whales showed that they dive to depths of about 1,000 metres where giant squid are thought to lurk.

The team devised a rig at this spot comprising a camera, light and data logger attached to two baited hooks, each carrying a bag of mashed shrimps. Pictures were taken every 30 seconds over a five-hour period.

Source: China Daily