Colossal vs. Giant

I just found this article on new discoveries about colossal squid, and was astonished.  I’ve always been interested in the sort of things lurking in the depths of the ocean – the Kraken, which we now think is a giant squid, the sperm whale, mondo-big sea lilies – all that stuff.  Anyone who reads dragon books has to love the dragons of the deep.  But it was perhaps this love that led me slightly astray in the past – for some reason I’d thought that giant squid and sperm whales were natural enemies, slamming and ramming one into the other.  It turns out that it’s more likely for the sperm whales to eat squid of various types, and that we get quite a bit of our information on deep sea squid from their remains in the bellies of whales.

Back to the article – before today, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as colossal squid, as opposed to the giant variety.  From what little we know of the species, we think it is larger and denser than the giant squid, making it the largest invertebrate in the world.  Why had I never heard of it before now, then?  Perhaps it hasn’t been getting as much press because of the fewer documented cases of its existence.  The earliest reported finding of a full body was in 2003, though earlier parts (tentacles and beaks) had been found as early as 1925.  Despite this lack of complete specimens, the colossal is different enough to be granted its own singular genus.  I may not know much about Linnaeus (besides that he was a racist), but I gather that this means something is importantly different about this species. More information can be found at this comparative site, and at the Te Papa museum.

If colossals can have such a different morphology than the giants, and if we still do not know the full extent of these squid’s habits and habitats, it could again be a case of writing more than we know.  Who’s to say that colossals and sperm whales aren’t natural enemies?  Who’s to say that icebergs can’t travel south and then north again without flipping?  Who’s to say that the Vikings didn’t intermarry and merge with northern Native American tribes? (This is all in one of those possibly-real-life youth adventure books, but I’ve been unable to think of the title.  Sorry.)

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