Squids are a diverse group of Cephalopods that have for ages, fascinated biologists due to their mysterious nature. There are more than 300 species of squids in the oceans with different colorations and abilities.
Such is the diversity of these fascinating animals, widely distributed in all of the world’s coastal and oceanic waters.
These deep-sea invertebrates come in a range of sizes, with some species like the Southern pygmy squid maturing barely at less than an inch. Others, including the giant and colossal squid, grow at impressive lengths approaching a massive 46 feet.
Read on to learn more about the biggest squid ranked by size and some of the unique traits that set these deep-sea dwellers apart from other creatures on our planet.
1. Colossal Squid
Reaching weights of about a whopping 1100 lbs and measuring up to a maximum of 46 feet in total length, the colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) takes the first spot as the largest squid and invertebrate in existence.
The colossal squid also has the biggest eyes of all animals, helping it find and hunt prey in the murky ocean depths.
It is, however, shorter than the giant squid but weighs more than it due to the giant squid’s smaller body. This species is an ambush predator and has the largest beak in the squid family.
It mainly feeds on large fish species, like Patagonian toothfish and other squid in the Southern Ocean.
Primarily inhabiting the cold waters of the Antarctic as deep as 13000 feet, the first colossal squid was captured in 1981 off the coast of Antarctica by a deep-sea trawler.
However, there is relatively little known about this mysterious species as very few specimens have been captured and studied due to the extraordinary depths in which they live.
Adult colossal squid are commonly preyed upon by the sperm whale- the only known predator of this enormous sea creature.
Colossal squid often engage in epic battles with sperm whales, as many sperm whales have been found with scars from their sharp, rotating hooks.
While the colossal squid is not classified as endangered, learning more about these enormous creatures is no easy task because of the high-pressure depths of the ocean.
Scientists mainly primarily rely upon carcasses found ashore or in the bellies of sperm whales. Besides, they have a short life expectancy, which is an estimate of two years.
2. Giant Squid
The giant squid (Architeuthis dux) is the longest of all squids. These mammoth deep-sea creatures live up to their name, as they can reach lengths of up to 60 feet.
Weighing about 606 lbs, scientists have been hardpressed to characterize the giant squid’s ecology and biology as not many have been studied.
While you may think that such a massive creature would be hard to miss, giant squid, like colossal squid, remain elusive and are rarely observed as they inhabit the deep waters of the oceans.
The little details about the giant squid come from studies conducted upon the carcasses washed ashore worldwide.
They are rarely found in tropical or polar areas. It was only until 2006 when a team of Japanese scientists spotted and captured a live giant squid for the first time for the world to see.
Like the colossal squid, the giant squid’s eyes are the largest on earth, enabling it to easily detect prey in the darkest depths of the deep oceans.
It uses its long, barbed sucker tentacles, almost twice the size of its body length, to capture prey at a distance.
The giant squid’s diet primarily comprises deepwater fishes and smaller squids. Sperm whales and perhaps sleeper sharks are the only predators of adult giant squid.
3. Dana Octopus Squid
Ranking third on our list of the largest squid, the Dana octopus squid (Taningia danae) can weigh up to 355 lbs and grow up to 7 feet long.
It is native to all the oceans worldwide and lives at about 2,400 feet below sea level. As with all other deep ocean squid species, little is known about the Dana octopus squid’s feeding or hunting behavior.
Whatever knowledge about this species exists mainly comes from the animals caught by deep-sea fishermen as bycatch or discovered from in the stomachs of sperm whales.
The first specimen in the wild was documented in 2005 off Japan by a group of scientists. They also observed its fascinating hunting and communication technique.
It is believed to actively flash its photophores, a light-producing organ, in various patterns and at different times to stun and blind prey as it attacks.
Scientists theorize that this bioluminescent behavior is also used for mating purposes and to ward off potential predators.
It is a very agile species of squid, able to flip around rapidly and reach speeds of 9 km/h. The most prominent predator of the Dana octopus squid is the sperm whale.
It is also preyed upon by several other species of pelagic fishes like lancetfish, swordfish, tunas, hammerhead, and tiger and blue sharks.
4. Robust Clubhook Squid
Mainly found in boreal to temperate areas of the Northern Pacific ocean, the robust clubhook squid (Onykia robusta) lives at depths ranging from 100-1,700 feet.
It is the largest of all hooked squid and grows up to 110 lbs heavy, and reaches lengths of over 13 feet.
The robust clubhook squid derives its name from its distinctive tentacular clubs with 15 to 18 club hooks, which it uses to catch prey. Its arms contain 50-60 suckers, which can grow to be almost the same length as the squid’s body.
The robust clubhook squid feeds on benthic fish species and jellyfish. Its primary predators include sperm whales, sharks, and even fur seals.
5. Humboldt Squid
Also known as the jumbo squid or the flying squid, the Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas) is a large, active predator that can grow 8 feet long and reach 100 pounds.
Inhabiting the warm waters of the Pacific ocean, the species’ range has expanded in recent times, and they exist as far north as Alaska.
Living in oceans at depths ranging from 660 to 2,300 feet, Humboldt squid are the largest of all flying squid and most commonly found traveling in shoals of 1,200 or more individuals.
The Humboldt squid is a voracious predator, and scientists fear that their growing numbers could endanger the populations of other small fish or squid in various regions.
The species’ diet consists of small fish and crustaceans like crabs, lobsters, and prawns. It may display cannibalism at times and consume other squid too.
This aggressive squid species uses powerful, barbed tentacle suckers to strike and hunt down prey.
Its distinctive hunting technique involves chasing down and catching prey, pulling it deep under it falls unconscious.
It then tears it apart and slices into the flesh using its razor-sharp beak. Attacks on humans, specifically deep-sea divers, have also been reported on some rare occasions due to mistaken identity.
A fascinating aspect of these captivating creatures is that they have specialized color cells called chromatophores which enable them to alter the color of their skin and generate light to communicate with each other.
They may flash red and white lights when irritated while hunting or to signal danger from predators as a warning.
The Humboldt squid can swim at speeds as fast as 24 km/h, which rivals some of the fastest swimmers in the waters. It is preyed upon by larger predators. These include sperm whales, swordfish, billfish, and large sharks.
Equipped with giant barbed tentacle suckers and able to swim faster than any other invertebrate, the largest squid ranked mostly live deep underwater, making it difficult to fully understand their lifestyle and behavior.
However, the few scientific studies conducted on these sea monsters reveal some captivating details about them.
From communicating using their bioluminescent light-emitting organs to moving by speedy jet propulsion at high speeds, there is still a lot to learn about these mysterious marine creatures in the times to come.