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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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Department of Invertebrate Zoology

Sapphirina auronitens
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Feeding

Imagine your own arms as giant squid tentacles.  Stretch them to 33 feet (10 meters).  Your hand represents the club with four rows of suckers with sharp, serrated edges that line your palms and suckers along your wrists.  Add small knobs and both tentacles can be locked together as you capture your prey.  Now that you are equipped like Architeuthis, imagine how well you could catch a baseball!

Giant Squid Anatomy

Diagram of squid anatomy showing its eight arms. The two longer tentacles with clubbed ends are used to catch prey. Image courtesy: Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES)

Although giant squid have eight arms up to 9.8 feet (3 m) long, they are unlikely to be used to grab prey.  The two much longer tentacles, 33-40 feet (10-12 m), actually make the catch.  At the business end, away from the head, the tentacles expand to resemble clubs.  Suckers, round cups lined with sharp, finely serrated rings of chitin, are located on both arms and tentacles.  Suckers hold on to prey with powerful suction while the chitinous rings sink into the unlucky prey.  Hundreds of suckers are found on the inner surface of the arms and tentacles. 

squid tentacle (Kubodero)

Giant Squid tentacular clubs are lined with powerful suckers. (Click photo to enlarge.) Image courtesy: T. Kubodera.

Although giant squid tentacles are very long compared to the arms and mantle, and even proportionately longer than the tentacles of most other kinds of squid, they have the same function—snatching prey at a distance.  Giant squid may snatch prey more than 33 feet (10 m) away from the predator’s eye! 

beak

The giant squid's beak is powered by strong muscles, enabling it to easily bite its prey into small chunks. (Click photo to enlarge.) Image courtesy: Clyde Roper, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History.

 

Once caught by Architeuthis tentacles, the prey is transferred to the arms.  The arms further subdue the prey, pulling it to the strong, sharp beaks.  The beaks are operated by a massive set of muscles that allow them to bite through just about anything the squid might capture.  The giant squid’s bite-sized pieces of food are pushed down the esophagus to the stomach.  To do this, the tongue has a radula, an organ loaded with rows of small, file-like teeth.  Pieces of food must be very small because the esophagus passes through the brain.


What do giant squid like to eat? Find out in this short animation.
"(The perils of being a) Giant Squid Expert",
Animation Courtesy of Matt Reeve, Jamspazm Productions.

 

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