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Huge squid has world's largest eye, say scientists

  • Story Highlights
  • Researchers defrosting two colossal squid at New Zealand's national museum
  • The larger one has eyes around 27 cm across, believed to be world's biggest
  • It weighs almost half a tonne and measures about 32 feet (10 meters) in length
  • Scientists believe that there may be even larger colossal squids in existence
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(CNN) -- Scientists studying the carcass of what they call the heaviest squid ever found have discovered it has eyes as big as soccer balls -- reportedly the largest in the world.

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Scientists are interviewed while two colossal squids are defrosted. The one on the right is missing part of its body.

The colossal squid's eyes were measured at about 27 centimeters (10.8 inches) across by researchers, who have been defrosting it and a smaller specimen at Te Papa, the national museum of New Zealand.

"This is the only intact eye (of a colossal squid) that's ever been found. It's spectacular," squid specialist Kat Bolstad of the Auckland University of Technology told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Bolstad, one of a team of international scientists brought in to examine the creature, added: "It's the largest known eye in the animal kingdom."

His assertion was backed up by Swedish professor Eric Warrant of the University of Lund, who specializes in vision in invertebrates.

"This is the largest eye ever recorded in history and studied," Warrant told AP. "It has a huge lens the size of an orange and captures an awful lot of light in the dark depths in which it hunts."

Scientists snaked a camera into the colossal squid's body and measured its beak and tentacles in an exam broadcast live on the Internet.

"It didn't seem really fair that only a handful of people would get to see an animal like this up close," said Steve O'Shea, a marine biologist at the Auckland University of Technology.

He led a team that examined the corps of the colossal squid on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in a lab at Wellington's Te Papa.

"It's the end of three days without much sleep," O'Shea told CNN. "It's been an exhausting exercise."

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Blog dispatches from the lab provided updates ("They're going to rotate the Squid!") peppered with commentary ("anything with lots of legs/tentacles gives me the willies but if it's here -- and not moving is a plus in my book -- you have to touch!")

A New Zealand fishing boat snagged the squid in February 2007, as it sought toothfish in the Antarctic waters of the Ross Sea. The crew hauled in a line with many baited hooks and discovered a massive squid feasting on one of the hooked fish, the museum says on its Web site.

Researchers determined it was a colossal squid, a species first documented in 2003 that tends to weigh more than the also-big giant squid.

The larger colossal squid that scientists examined this week weighed 1,091 pounds (495 kilograms) and measured about 32 feet (10 meters), the museum said.

"We probably have more questions than we have answers now," O'Shea said just after completing the exam.

Yet the team made at least one key finding.

When they measured the colossal squid's beak, O'Shea said, they were stunned to discover that it was shorter than colossal-squid beaks recovered from the stomachs of sperm whales, which prey on squid.

That led O'Shea to conclude that even heavier colossal squid lurk somewhere below the surface, unseen by human eyes.

"They grow considerably larger," he said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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