‘Sea monster’ study spurs questions
VANCOUVER—They’re the stuff of myth and ‘B’-grade horror movies: giant tentacled sea monsters roaming the deep in search of prey.
Giant squid have tuned up on East Coast shores for hundreds of years, and now new research is shining some light on the B.C. sea monsters.
The genetic diversity among the samples was lower than almost any species ever reported, noted Tom Gilbert, a researcher from the Natural History Museum of Denmark at the University of Copenhagen.
“That lack of diversity and no population structure is just crazy,” he added in an e-mail interview.
“We just cannot explain it easily once you start thinking that this is an animal that lives everywhere.
“We wanted to find answers,” Gilbert said. “We ended up making more questions.”
The study, published yesterday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, left researchers with several theories, including that the creatures may have come close to extinction and then rebounded.
Giant squid, or Architeuthis, are one of the largest invertebrates on Earth. They are found in oceans from New Zealand to Ireland, and can reach a maximum of 18 metres in length.
Until recently, the creatures were so rare that they remained largely lore, including the sea monster hungry for human flesh in Jules Verne’s 1870 novel, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”
“Because of their huge size and elusive nature, many myths and legendary sea monsters have been based on them, including the fabled sinker of ships, the Kraken,” said the article.
One of the earliest-recorded sightings was in 1785 off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland—the first of many off the Atlantic coast of Canada.
There were unconfirmed reports of giant squid off the B.C. coast four years ago, but repeated requests for information and interviews with Fisheries and Oceans Canada researchers were not successful.
Until 2006, when researchers managed to hook a live giant squid using bait near the Ogasawara Islands, south of Japan, the only known specimens had washed up dead on beaches.
In January, Japanese scientists made headlines around the world when they captured video images of a giant squid in its natural habitat for the first time.
The video, filmed from a manned submersible in the Pacific Ocean last summer and aired on the Discovery Channel this year, showed the three-metre cephalopod about 900 metres below the surface.