Giant squid dissection held at AUT University

Dr Kat Bolstad examining the giant squid
AUT researchers got up close and personal with not one, but three giant squids on 19 June 2014.

Marine Biologist and AUT lecturer Dr Kat Bolstad led a team of post-graduate students and AUT University academics in the examination and dissection of the Architeuthis dux specimens which were found in New Zealand waters.

Giant squids have long fascinated mankind, but many aspects of their biology remain poorly understood. Dr Bolstad and her team set out to shed some light on the lives of these mysterious creatures through the data collected during the dissection.

The information collected will help establish how the giant squid fits into marine food webs, possible effects of ocean acidification on this species, its genetic information and the vision of giant squids.

The University hosted the dissection online via live streaming, and the following demonstrates just how much these fascinating creatures capture the imagination of the public. The Giant Squid Enthusiasts corner of Twitterverse held a mini party aptly named a cephaloparty and Twitter was abuzz with excitement (#AUTsquid) as viewers tuned in from all over the world. Questions were also submitted live from viewers and answered in live chat with the team.

The giant squid specimens examined were donated to AUT’s Institute for Applied Ecology New Zealand by NIWA’s Invertebrate Collections and the Scientific Observer Programme, who were enthusiastic to see them made available for scientific investigation.

If you missed out on the live stream, watch the video below with some of the highlights.

After being examined, the best specimen will be preserved and prepared for display at Auckland Museum. The remaining specimens will be sampled to gain as much information about the giant squid as possible, and parts of them saved for display and educational purposes.

Did you know?

  • The first live video footage of these animals in their natural habitat was obtained just two years ago, although the species has been known to science for more than 130 years and has appeared in folklore for much longer.
  • Although over 20 species of giant squid have been formally named and described, a genetic study published in 2013 showed that there appears to be just one species worldwide.
  • Giant squid have some of the largest eyes in the animal kingdom-up to 25 cm (10") in diameter.
  • Squid have three hearts and a doughnut-shaped brain, with the oesophagus passing through the centre.  A giant squid's oesophagus is about the diameter of a human thumb, and a 250 kg giant squid (550 lbs) has a brain weighing just 20 grams (0.7 oz)!

Giant Squid FAQs

Who's on camera?

Dr Kat Bolstad - Lecturer at AUT, marine biologist
Dr Bolstad runs AUT’s Lab for Cephalopod Ecology and Systematics (ALCES). Her major research interests are in deep-sea squid systematics, biology and ecology. She will be leading the investigations during this event.

Heather Braid - PhD student at AUT, geneticist
Heather is investigating population genetics of squid in New Zealand waters. Her research interests also include deep-sea squid systematics and biology.

Dr Monica Acosta - Senior lecturer at the University of Auckland
Dr Monica Acosta researches the neurochemistry and function of the retina in the UoA’s Cell and Molecular Biology of the Retina lab, in the School of Optometry. She and Dr Bolstad are collaborating to improve understanding of vision in deep-sea squid, which live in near-total darkness, yet appear to have very good vision.

Dr Matthew Jones - Science media coordinator at AENZ (AUT), marine biologist
Dr Jones specialises in deep-sea trophic ecology.

Tyler Northern - MSc student at the University of Otago

Tyler is researching the potential effects of ocean acidification on cephalopods, using the chemistry of the hard parts (statoliths, beaks, sucker rings, and others).

Last updated: 22-Oct-2014 11.40am

The information on this page was correct at time of publication. For a comprehensive overview of AUT qualifications, please refer to the Academic Calendar.