21 February 1999

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research - NIWA
Great Point, Wellington, New Zealand

Today was certainly a day of stark contrasts. Being Sunday, we had the NIWA lab pretty much to ourselves so that the Discovery Channel film crew could spend many hours filming Clyde doing a very comprehensive dissection of yet another giant squid specimen that Steve O'Shea had stored in the freezer. Unlike yesterday's marvelously complete specimen, this one had been separated into two parts, with the mantle in one large bag and the head and arms in another.

Clyde was like a kid in a candy shop, so eager to show off many of the features that he was able to preserve, including the eyes and stomach contents. He and Steve managed to find the two tiny objects that are analogous to the otoliths (ear bones) that are found in many fish. These small white objects, known as statoliths, are not much bigger than a grain of sand and were buried deep within a large mass of white cartilage-like material.

Nevertheless, they managed to find both which they lifted out as if they were the Crown jewels, placing them in little jars for future analysis. It is believed statoliths are used by squid to maintain proper orientation. Much like tree rings, layering within statoliths is likely related to the age of the squid.

Yet another remarkable piece of anatomy, the squid's parrot-like beak, was much thinner than I had imagined but it was supported by a very thick and strong mass of cartilage and muscle, making it a most formidable structure, and not one that I would want to be on the receiving end.

Once all the "important" body parts were cut, tagged and bagged or bottled, it was time to clean up the mess that was left behind. I have had many experiences in my life that I can look back on with relish and pride, however, lifting the liver of a giant squid off of the dissection table and placing it into a large Styrofoam box is not be one of those.

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