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Giant Squid The Length Of A Bus Examined By Scientists In New Zealand

17/09/2014 15:02 BST | Updated 17/09/2014 15:59 BST

A colossal squid weighing 350kg has been retrieved from the deep freeze for scientists to scrutinise.

As long as a minibus, the elusive species was fished out of Antarctica’s remote Ross Sea eight months ago.

On Tuesday a team of scientists in New Zealand enlisted a forklift to manoeuvre it onto a viewing table.

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giant squid

The beast was reeled in from Antarctica's remote Ross Sea eight months ago

Kat Bolstad, a squid scientist from the Auckland University of Technology led the team examining the creature.

She described this rare specimen as "very big, very beautiful," adding it is possible ancient sightings of the species may have given rise to tales of the kraken or giant sea monster squid.

This squid is a female, and its eight arms are each well over a metre (3.3 feet) long. Its two tentacles would have been perhaps double that length if they had not been damaged.

"This is essentially an intact specimen, which is almost an unparalleled opportunity for us to examine," Bolstad said. "This is a spectacular opportunity."

Giant Squid

Many people around the world agreed: About 142,000 people from 180 countries watched streaming footage of the squid examination on the internet.

The squid was captured by Captain John Bennett and his team, who hauled in a similar specimen seven years ago.

The creature is on display in New Zealand's national museum, Te Papa.

Capt Bennett said there was so much excitement about his previous catch, he thought he had better save the latest one for research.

"It was partly alive, it was still hanging onto the fish," Bennett recalls.

"Just a big bulk in the water. They're huge, and the mantle's all filled with water. It's quite an awesome sight."

Susan Waugh, a senior curator at Te Papa, said scientists hope to find out more about where the creature fits in the food chain, how much genetic variation there is among different squid types, and basic facts about how the colossal squid lives and dies.

She said scientists plan to further assess the condition of the squid before determining whether to preserve it for public display.

Bolstad said sperm whales often eat colossal squid and are known to play with their food, and sailors may have mistaken that for epic battles.

"On the other hand, we don't really know what the grog rations were like at that time at sea, either," she said. "So it may be that we've got a bit of a fisherman's story going on there, too."