- A giant squid was found on a beach in Britannia Bay in the Western Cape.
- The squid, which measured 4.19m, was not a fully grown adult, according to marine biologist Dr Wayne Florence.
- The specimen has been sent to the Iziko Museums of South Africa to add to its marine invertebrate collection.
A giant squid was found stranded, but still alive and spouting ink, on Britannia Bay Beach in St Helena Bay, Western Cape, on Sunday morning.
Richard Davies, who filmed his encounter with the giant beast, said they had tried to roll the squid back into the water but because of its weight, decided to leave the animal to “die in dignity”.
It weighed between 200 and 300kg, according to his estimate.
“It was sad because I could see it was dying,” Davies told News24. “It was still pumping out ink and I touched one of its tentacles which sucked onto my hand and I actually had to use some force to remove it.”
After Googling the creature known as Architeuthis dux in Latin, Davies realised a giant squid washing up on a beach in South Africa was a rare occurrence and a “once-in-a-lifetime sighting”.
According to Dr Wayne Florence, a marine biologist and curator of marine invertebrates for the Iziko Museums of South Africa, giant squid are found at depths of 300 to 1 000m in all the world’s oceans, except at the poles.
Iziko acquired the giant squid to add to its extensive natural science collection documenting South Africa’s biodiversity.
According to Florence, the largest squid found stranded in South Africa measured 9.1m. It was found in Kommetjie, Cape Town, in 1992.
“It’s rare. In South Africa, we have had less than a handful of strandings. Surprisingly, despite our museum being almost 200 years old, our earliest stranded giant squid specimen is from 1972,” he told News24.
The museum has a collection of 19 giant squid that are submerged in 70% ethanol in big stainless steel tanks to preserve them.
“Unlike most large animals, squid generally grow very quickly and only live for about five years. They have annual rings but these have to be dissected and also analysis of the beak can give an indication of age.
“Since this giant squid is just over 4m in total length, based on expert opinion of other larger specimens, this beast was probably less than two years old,” Florence said.
The museum boasts a natural science collection of 10 million specimens that are stored as a research collection mapping southern Africa’s natural history.
“Part of our mandate – the public often don’t know this – is to document Africa’s biodiversity and we do this through collecting specimens,” he told News24.
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