The Kraken: Myth or Horrific Reality?
The story of the Kraken is one of the oldest in mythology, generating stories since the 12th century, preying on sailing vessels by wrapping it’s tentacles around the hull of the ship and collapsing it in one fell swoop. Killing all of the crew on board. Could this actually be real?
Although the Kraken may be a myth, it is highly based around real world organisms, such as the Colossal Squid. The Colossal Squid is the largest invertebrate in the world, followed closely by the Giant Squid (Architeuthis due). These invertebrates have been reported over 16m in length and weighing over 200 kilograms, the largest of which was 18m and over 900kg. They are commonly found between 300-600m depth and the deepest recorded was over 1100m.
Architeuthis due has extremely large eyes, measuring 10 inches in diameter. By having these extremely large organs, it allows light photons to be picked up easily from within the depths of their habitat where very little light is present. This adaptation allows the giant squid to hunt prey far more efficiently than having smaller, less useful eyes. A study suggests that these large eyes are not only for positive predation, but to detect other predators from great distances (120m), allowing the giant squid to apply escaping mechanisms early to enhance survival rates.
Many other adaptations within the squid are present compared to smaller, more domersal squid from shallower habitats. Each giant squid has 8 arms and 2 tentacles, each covered with hooks and sucker rings which allow them to capture their prey. The diet of A. due is carnivorous, meaning that it feeds on other live organisms, such as fish, shrimp and other squid. The feeding tentacles can be shot at prey from up to 10 meters away, skewering the prey with the tipped tentacle ends. They then use their arms to bring the captured prey to the beak, where the prey is consumed.
Although they are highly efficient predators, the giant squid are not top of the food chain, they are preyed upon by Sperm Whales. It has been shown that there are often battles between Sperm Whales and Giant Squid because the whales are often found with scarring patterns upon their bodies, which, when closely analysed from the hooks from the giant squid. Although the Giant Squid cannot constrict it’s arms, they can still cause major damage to the Sperm Whale. The footage below was taken at 598m off the Gulf of Mexico which shows the damage from coming into contact with a Giant Squid.
With ocean temperatures rising due to global warming, could this directly effect Architeuthis due populations? A study conducted by Brix, 1983 hypothesised that an influx of warm water into the habitat of the giant squid could have major damaging effects, including death. Brix suggested that suffocation may occur from arterial desaturation, with a live specimen analysed, they found that a x4 decrease in O2 affinity within the squid when the temperature was increased by 8.6°C. Thus, meaning that there is a direct link with increasing sea levels and the effects that it has on the species. If ocean temperatures keep increasing, high densities of giant squid will suffocate from lack of oxygen.
There have been multiple reports of “attacks” by the giant squid, being reported by some of the largest news networks in the world, such as the BBC, ABC News and Fox News. Although rare occurrences, there have been reports of fatalities from giant squid attacks. It has been suggested, due to decreasing prey in their hunting waters, that the giant squid are becoming more aggressive, seeking out whatever food they can find.
With very little known about such a deepwater species, it is hard to collate data on population sizes, reproduction rates and rituals as well as when maturity occurs. Obviously the Kraken is a myth, however, with stories always being exaggerated over years, it is possible that the “monsters” that sailors encountered all those years ago were infact giant squid, with a little white lie to impress their friends.
(Who can honestly admit that they don’t love shouting “RELEASE THE KRAKEN!” at the top of their lungs too?)