Morihiko Yamada/Museum of Nature and Human Activities, Hyogo

For centuries, giant squid haunted the nightmares of sailors – believed to savage ships and drown men. Much of this enigmatic species still remains a mystery to scientists. However, for the first time, three baby giant squid have been caught and examined in Japan. As far as tentacled sea monsters go, their kids are pretty cute. 

An average-sized female giant squid (Architeuthis dux) is estimated to be 13 meters (40 feet) long. However, the juveniles caught off the coast of Japan are between 14 centimeters (5.5 inches) and 33 centimeters (13 inches).

The three squid were caught by fishermen in 2013. The first and smallest was caught off the coast of Uchinoura, Kagoshima, Kyushu Island in southern Japan. The other two were found in the same net over 600 kilometers (370 miles) away on the coast off Hamada, Shimane, south-western Sea of Japan.

The young squid are around the same size as adults from other smaller species of squid. In order to identify and examine them, they were sent to Toshifumi Wada, a cephalopod expert at the Institute of Natural and Environmental Sciences at the University of Hyogo in Japan. The results from the genetic analysis and physical examination were recently published in the journal Marine Biodiversity Records.

Speaking to Motherboard, Wada said: “I was excited because these are really important specimens.”

He added, “The fisherman who caught it and the aquarium staff didn’t know they were looking at a giant squid baby… It’s likely they usually get chucked overboard, or perhaps eaten by fishermen as they won’t necessarily realize that what they’ve caught is a giant baby squid.

“It’s hard to advance this research if we don’t have specimens. It would be great to spread more awareness about giant squid babies among fishermen so we can gather more specimens in museums and aquariums and understand how these babies live and behave.”

The catch also helps identify some behaviour of this elusive creature. Since two were found together, it suggests they may travel together in early life despite being solitary animals when mature, Wada told Wall Street Journal.
 
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