Rare giant squid caught in the Bay of Plenty will assist MPI research

23 June 2020

Professor Chris Battershill, University of Waikato marine scientists, students and the 80kg giant squid that was caught in the Bay of Plenty last week. Photo supplied by Daniel Hines, Sunlive.

A giant squid caught off Whakaari/White Island last week, will be used by University of Waikato marine scientists to look into the effects of the Whakaari emissions after the December 2019 eruptions.

As part of a research programme funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and co-developed with Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa, the project is led by Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Nick Ling and Associate Professor of Mātai Moana Marine Research Kura Paul-Burke, and aims to determine the uptake of toxic elements like mercury, arsenic and cadmium that are released in geothermal emissions.

Last Thursday, Professor Chris Battershill and marine science students based at the Coastal Marine Field Station, took flesh samples from the 80kg squid to test for toxins.

“There were fish kills after the eruptions so we wanted to have a look at how far through the food chain everything is going,” says Chris.

“It's tragic what's been happening there, but the island itself is one of the few places in the world where you've got carbon dioxide seeping out of the marine sea floor, but at a shallow depth.

“So it's kind of like a living laboratory for climate change and looking at the effects of ocean acidification.”

The squid was caught by the crew of the Margaret Philippa, in a net of orange roughy at a trawl depth of 1000m. Skipper Roger Rawlinson of Moana Fisheries says they often get squid as a bycatch but nothing of this size. After hauling it in, Roger immediately thought to contact Chris Battershill so it could be used for scientific purposes.

Marine science students and onlookers watched in awe as the squid was hoisted by crane onto a double flat-bed trailer outside the Coastal Marine Field Station at Sulphur Point. Chris and his students took samples of the flesh, as well as eggs that will be cryo-preserved then possibly hatched to understand the life cycle better.

The species is believed to be a Dana Octopus Squid (Taningia danae), or Strobe Squid.

Although the squid is yet to be properly identified, it is believed to be a Taningia danae, Dana Octopus Squid or Strobe Squid. This is a rare species that lives in very deep water and is eaten by sperm whales. It’s called the strobe squid because of the phosphorescing 'pods' (photophores) on the tips of two of its arms that are used to disorient prey in the dark waters at depth. Estimated to be around 3m in length and weighing well over 80kg, Chris thinks this specimen is getting up to be the largest ever recorded.

The squid was transported to a University of Waikato science laboratory at the Tauranga CBD campus. It will stay frozen while it awaits a full taxonomic inspection and dissection. This is likely to be carried out at the Auckland Museum sometime in the next month.

Chris says the lifecycle of squid is quite short and the one that was caught would have likely died after spawning. The catch, which included many other deep water species, shows the vibrancy of the ocean around the Bay of Plenty.

“They're getting orange roughy and other cold water species out there, so you’ve got these sub-Antarctic fish and yet in the surface waters around the Bay, you're increasingly seeing sub-tropicals like lion fish.

“Before our very eyes, we are experiencing a changing marine climate.

So as a marine science centre, we're in exactly the right spot.”

Latest stories

Related stories

Raukokore Marine Research

Waikato supports Raukōkore Marine Research Centre opening

The Raukōkore Marine Research Centre has officially opened, providing a crucial research base for the…

Professor Chris Battershill

Renowned scientist honoured for dedication to marine conservation

World-renowned marine scientist Professor Chris Battershill has been honoured for his significant contributions to marine…

Medical School Announcement

University of Waikato welcomes third medical school announcement

The University of Waikato welcomes the announcement by the National Party that if the Party…

Images of Dr Joel Rindelaub and Dr Benjamin Dickson from the University of Waikato

Curing cancer, clearing the air and changing the world: two senior chemistry lecturers move to Waikato

The University of Waikato has appointed two new senior chemistry lecturers to Te Aka Mātuatua…

Assistant Vice-Chancellor Sustainability Professor Lynda Johnston

Waikato ranks in top 100 of universities globally

The University of Waikato has been recognised in the top 100 of educational institutions worldwide…

Group photo

Ministers visit Coastal Marine Field Station

The University of Waikato’s Coastal Marine Field Station was on show when Finance Minister Grant…

Graduates from the University of Waikato line up for their ceremony

Triumph in Tauranga: University of Waikato celebrates graduation

Just over 250 people graduated from the University of Waikato’s Tauranga campus on Friday, marking…

Learning on the move

Students from across the Bay of Plenty attended sessions of jumping, sprinting, balancing, and analysing…

Rapid response to protect penguins from bird flu

Professor Craig Cary wasn’t planning to spend part of his 2022/23 Antarctic deployment trekking around…

Nathan Bailey, inaugural recipient of the Tauranga Moana Futures Scholarship

Scholarship enables inaugural recipient to contribute to the redevelopment of Tauranga City

University of Waikato first-year Bachelor of Engineering student Nathan Bailey is the inaugural recipient of…

Waikato alumnus awarded prestigious University Medal.

The University of Waikato has awarded its prestigious University of Waikato Medal to alumnus Rob…

An ocean of possibilities in marine research at University of Waikato

Researchers at the University of Waikato are turning to the ocean to clean up our…