PhD student Inger Winkelmann says about these findings, that are about to be published in the esteemed British journal, the Proceedings of the Royal Society B:
We have analysed DNA from the remains of 43 giant squid collected from all over the world. The results show, that the animal is genetically nearly identical all over the planet, and shows no evidence of living in geographically structured populations. We suggest that one possible explanation for this is that although evidence suggests the adults remain in relatively restricted geographic regions, the young that live on the ocean's surfaces must drift in the currents globally. Once they reach a large enough size to survive the depths, we believe they dive to the nearest suitable deep waters, and there the cycle begins again. Nevertheless, we still lack a huge amount of knowledge about these creatures. How big a range to they really inhabit as adults? Have they in the past been threatened by things such as climate change, and the populations of their natural enemies, such as the planet's largest toothed whale, the sperm whale that can grow up to 20 m in length and 50 tons? And at an even more basic levelhow old do they even get and how quickly do they grow?
The kraken and the seamonk
These new results about the mysterious giant squid are released, fittingly enough, on the 200th anniversary of the Danish naturalist and polymath, Japetus Steenstrup (born in 1813).
At the age of 44, in 1857, it was Steenstrup who saw that many of the monsters of sea-legend were related to fragments that he had been sent of what appeared to be a giant squid, and in doing so described the species for the first time and removed any hope that sea monsters such as the Kraken and sea-monk really existed (although nevertheless, similar monsters still inspired beasts in literature and even films throughout the 20th century, including Tolkein's Lord of the Rings in 1957).
|Contact: Tom Gilbert|
University of Copenhagen