The Search for the Giant Squid

Bookshelf: The Search for the Giant Squid

The Search for the Giant Squid – Richard Ellis

The Search for the Giant Squid
The Search for the Giant Squid

Richard Ellis, author and artist of all things oceanic, turns his attention to the giant squid. This creature has never been observed in the wild, which makes this book a frustrating read in some respects (through no fault of Ellis’s). They have washed up with some regularity on beaches around the world, and have been seen on the surface on occasion.

They can grow to epic proportions, and with their grasping tentacles and huge eyes they have captured the imagination of authors and filmmakers with great vigour. Ellis looks at the giant squid in popular culture – chapters which didn’t grip me as much as the biology, behaviour (speculated) and habitat chapters did. He also deals with the mortal enemy of the giant squid, namely the sperm whale.

Unlike other squid, giant squid are neutrally buoyant and thus don’t need to swim all the time. To achieve this their bodies are full of ammonia, which is lighter than water but makes their flesh taste awful. Squid in general have incredibly thick nerves (up to 100 times thicker than humans) which facilitates their almost instantaneous reaction times – and being able to swim in either direction helps. They don’t have a “front” and “back” as such! They are speculated to remain stationary in the ocean depths, waiting to surprise their prey.

Given that his subject is so elusive and that (despite there being many people who study giant squid for a living) much of the material on its lifestyle is speculative, Ellis doesn’t have a lot to work with here, but he does an incredibly good job of illuminating the current state of giant squid research. This is a fascinating read.

You can buy the book here if you’re in South Africa, otherwise buy the book here.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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