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Supersized Squid

squid
Image: Ocean Planet exhibit/Smithsonian Natural History

What weighs 275 pounds, glows in the dark and has arms lined with lethal hooks? Apparently, a squid that was captured recently by fishermen off the coast of northern Spain. Though it might seem like science fiction, the creature belongs to a previously known species of squid called Taningia danae. The new specimen, however, dwarfs the former record-holder, which weighed in at a mere 140 pounds.

Unlike most squid, Taningia does not have two long feeding tentacles. But on the tips of two of its eight arms, it sports large light-producing organs called photophores. The beast apparently uses them to emit flashes of bright blue-green light when threatened. This light could prove especially startling in the dark depths--up to 1,000 meters--at which Taningia is thought to live. Terrifying though it may be to many ocean-dwelling creatures, the giant strobing squid is no match for the sperm whale, which seems to have a taste for Taningia. Indeed, most of the known specimens of Taningia have been retrieved from sperm whale stomachs.

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