Irish researcher finds giant squid are just one big happy family
Galway scientist involved in global study of Kraken remains
A giant squid or Architeuthis. Photograph: Tsunemi Kubodera via NUI Galway
New research involving an Irish scientist has found that all the giant squid inthe planet’s oceans belong to one single species.
Dr Louise Allcock of NUI Galway's (NUIG) Ryan Institute was part of a research team led by the University of Copenhagen, which has published its findings on the giant squid's genetic code in the Proceedings of the Royal Society journal.
The team has found that it has managed to maintain a single population worldwide in the most extreme environments, which is regarded as "very unusual", according to Dr Allcock.
Previously, it had been thought that there were distinct Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean populations of the creatures depicted as the Kraken in Lord Alfred Tennyson's eponymous 19th century sonnet.
Giant squid are rarely seen, can grow to 13 metres and live at depths of 1,000 metres under the sea. There have been strandings on the Irish coastline, but more usually, remains are washed ashore or found inside whale carcasses.
The first live film of one in its natural environment was recorded by a submarine in Japanese waters less than a year ago.
The research team analysed DNA from the remains of 43 giant squid collected from all over the world. The data confirmed "extremely low genetic variability", Dr Allcock told The Irish Times.
While evidence suggests the adults remain in relatively restricted geographic regions, the young that live on the ocean’s surfaces must drift in the currents globally, she and her fellow scientists believe.
Once they reach a large enough size to survive extremes,they may dive to the nearest suitable deep waters and begin the reproductive cycle. Growth rate and the giant squid's longevity are still unknown.
The research involving Dr Allcock was led by PhD student Inger Winkelmann and her supervisor Professor Tom Gilbert, from the Basic Research Centre in GeoGenetics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen University.