Wait, which squid?

These aren't giant squid, either. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Sloppy science reporting alert!

This story is all over the place: “Giant squid” are suddenly swarming around the coastal waters of Southern California, and fishermen are hauling in huge piles of them in the name of sport, glory and endless calamari.

Nevermind that it’s a little sad when super-intelligent cephalopods are most valuable deep-fried. The problem with many of the squid-invasion stories from the last few days is that they contain an unfortunate — I’d go so far as to say offensive (to the squid) — inaccuracy.

“Giant squid invade California” makes a great headline, and I’d love to see it in campy sci-fi form.

But let’s be clear. The squid flooding the coast of California are Humboldt squid, also called jumbo squid. They live in the deep in the Pacific, they weigh a hundred pounds, and they’re over six feet long. They travel in big schools, which could explain why many of them are hitting the coast all at once.

Cool? Yeah. Big? Totally. Giant? Nope.

Because giant squid are a different species. Giant squid can be 60 feet long — ten times as big as the Humboldt — and they can weigh half a ton. They have eyes the size of dinner plates. They fight sperm whales, sometimes to the death. They’re so fundamentally mysterious that no one had even seen one alive until a few years ago.

Giant squid aren’t hanging out in Orange County. No one is catching hundreds of giant squid. Giant squid remain where they have always been, in the cold, black depths of the ocean, consistently eluding our grasp. You don’t mess with the giant squid.


About Mara Grunbaum

Science reporter in New York City.
This entry was posted in Marine Science and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Wait, which squid?

  1. Pingback: Deep sea, deep fried « Arch-Anemone

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