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26 May, 2016 12:56

Sea Monster: Giant squid could reach a staggering 20 meters in length, study finds

Sea Monster: Giant squid could reach a staggering 20 meters in length, study finds

A new study claims that scientists may have underestimated the size of the elusive giant squid by a substantial seven meters.

The mysterious deep sea dweller has long eluded scientists in their attempts to determine its maximum size and discover more about the species.

While the first record of a giant squid washing up onshore dates from 1639 in Iceland, the first photograph of a live one in its natural habitat was not captured until 2004 in Japan.  

Recent estimates put the maximum size of the sea creature at 13 meters (43ft) but now new research, named after the legendary sea monster Kraken, suggests it is plausible the giant squid could reach up to 20 meters in length. 

Unleashing the Kraken: on the maximum length in giant squid, is a statistical investigation by Charles Paxton, a fisheries ecologist and statistician at Scotland’s University of St Andrews, published in the Journal of Zoology.

Paxton examined the size of numerous giant squid ‘beaks‘ to calculate the creature’s total maximum length. Squids are a core element in the staple diet of sperm whales and, as a result, their hard parrot-like beak is often found in the whales’ digestive systems, according to The Science Explorer.

By looking at the relationship between beak size and squid length, Paxton determined it was statistically plausible that giant squid could have total length - body and tentacles - of 20 meters (65ft), "and that's a conservative analysis," he is quoted by Live Science.

"I am extrapolating here, and extrapolation can sometimes be a bit sketchy," Paxton explained. "But I think these are fairly safe extrapolations. I genuinely think that giant-squid size has been underestimated."

Paxton refutes claims that the giant squid could reach up to the size of the world’s largest living mammal, the 30-meter long blue whale. However, he would like to test the theory that squid parts can stretch out over time, leading to overestimations of their size.

“There are people in New Zealand and Spain who fairly regularly collect specimens of giant squid, and I'd like them to see just how stretchy they are postmortem," Paxton said.