"In Search Of Giant Squid" To Open Memorial Day Weekend

April 20, 2007

The Smithsonian traveling exhibition sheds light on the mysterious giant squid

A new traveling exhibition, based on the popular permanent exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, opened at the Oregon Coast Aquarium May 26. “In Search of Giant Squid,” which features a giant squid beak and suckers, will examine the myths and legends that surround giant squid and compare them with other squids and mollusks. The exhibit, which will remain at the Aquarium through Labor Day Weekend, explores their anatomy and what is known about how they hunt, move and defend themselves. Interactive components allow visitors to compare their own size to that of a giant squid.

"In Search of Giant Squid" opened with special programs by two of the world’s foremost squid researchers. Dr. Tsunemi Kubodera from the National Science Museum in Tokyo (the first person to photograph and video tape a live giant squid) and Dr. Eric Hochberg, Curator of Invertebrate Zoology at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History presented programs during opening weekend of the exhibit.

Dr. Kubodera’s program included the first video footage ever taken of a giant squid and Dr. Hochberg’s program, titled “Pygmies and Giants” included a squid dissection.

The exhibit, based on the popular permanent exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, examines the myths and legends that surround giant squid and explores their anatomy; what is known about how they hunt, move and defend themselves. The exhibit, which will remain at the Aquarium through Labor Day Weekend, features a giant squid beak and suckers. Interactive components allow visitors to compare their own size to that of a giant squid.

The Giant Squid inhabits all of the world’s oceans, does battle with sperm whales, can be longer than a school bus, and can weigh over 1,000 pounds. Yet, giant squid have rarely been seen in their natural habitat. “In Search of Giant Squid” explores what is known about these mystifying animals and describes scientists’ ongoing efforts to observe them in their undersea environment.

Scientists have learned some things about the lives and likely habits of these intriguing deep-sea dwellers, such as the fact that giant squid have the world’s largest eyes and that their clear-blue blood is based on copper rather than iron. Much still needs to be learned, however, including how long these creatures live, how fast they swim, and how whales can find them when scientists cannot.

“The oceans are a mysterious wonderland filled with millions of species of marvelously adapted creatures, most of them known only to marine biologists,” says Clyde Roper, a zoologist and curator emeritus at the National Museum of Natural History. “Imagine, then, how exciting and mysterious it is to know about the existence of an animal so big that its tentacles would drag over the end of a flat-bed trailer truck!”

The giant squid has been the stuff of legends for more than 2,000 years, inspiring the imagination of authors like Jules Verne, who used early reports of giant squid encounters to create the colossal, tentacled monster that attacked Capt. Nemo’s submarine in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. The first complete specimen of a dead giant squid was displayed in 1874 by Rev. Moses Harvey of Newfoundland. Its recovery led to the earliest accurate description of the giant squid in 1880. However, despite all that has been learned in the last 125 years about these elusive giants, they continue to mystify and to evoke the curiosity of both the scientific community and the public.

“In Search of the Giant Squid” has been developed by the National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) in partnership with the Discovery Channel, and is made possible by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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