Monday, September 12, 2005

Animal of the Week September 12, 2005 -- Fetch me a wedge of lemon

Manic Monday!
The grolsch-swilling UK liberals among the readers of AOTW (surely that's everyone) will have been wowed by a picture in the Guardian's Weekend magazine. The picture was of a large, hideous, wobbly-looking pink creature with massive bulbous eyes, handily placed next to a Declan Donelly for perspective (boom boom). No really, in the feature on a new book, Extreme Nature by Mark Carwardine, about interesting animals (where do these ideas come from?!) there was a picture (attached) of a colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni). Over the weekend I was asked on several occasions whether this was real. My initial reaction sparked by it's bright pink colour, it's huge huge eyes, and the rigid nature of it's body was: Jesus no! But then, I began to doubt my conviction (has anyone done a study on the effects of cheap-vodka hangovers on gullibility thresholds? I think there may be something in that). The remarkable nature of this picture has encouraged me to feature colossal squids as animals of the week. The largest of these monstrous molluscs found so far was nearly 18 m long (attached), although people speculate they may grow up to 40 m long -- of course a lot of that length is tentacle, but when the tentacles are covered in suckers and hooks, yes hooks, that doesn't really make one feel any more confident about dancing a tango with one. Sperm whales, big fans of calamari, like to eat these squid, but injuries found on the skins of the whales suggest they don't have it all their own way; there is even a report of a sperm whale being drowned by one. The squids are featured in the book because they have the largest eye of any known animal, which is about 30 cm in diameter (the size of a volleyball, apparently). Anyway, the creature pictured in the Weekend was a fake, out of the water colossal squids do not have enough support to appear so fabulous (think about the squid you see at a fishmongers -- if you weren't doing so already), but the animal is real; can you spot the real picture?


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