An unusual discovery was made in Cape Town, South Africa recently that piqued the interest of local researchers and beach-goers. A giant squid measuring around 4.3 metres (14 feet) was found washed up amongst the rocks on Scarborough Beach on Tuesday (Aug 16), attracting curious bystanders with its bizarre, alien-like appearance. 

Marine scientists were able to collect tissue samples and take measurements of the animal, which may aid in understanding more about the squid's feeding history, age and the possible reason for its stranding.

Although giant squids are elusive deep-sea creatures that typically dwell between 300 and 1000 metres (980–3,280 feet) below the surface, it is not unheard of to see the occasional squid washed up on shore. Less than six months before the Scarborough squid turned up, a 3.5m (11 ft) giant squid was found beached in Kommetjie near Cape Town. The exact cause of why these squids washed up is unclear but researchers theorise that it may be due to a behavioural display called diurnal vertical migration where deep-sea organisms venture up to the surface at night to feed and then return to deep waters during daylight. In shallow water, ship strikes may play a role in squid deaths.

Despite the Scarborough squid’s impressive size, the latest wash-up is fairly small by giant-squid standards and only measures in at around half the size of a fully grown adult. Giant squids are a great example of deep-sea gigantism and records show that they can reach lengths of up to 13m (43 ft). Some anecdotal evidence suggests they may even grow to be 18 metres (59 feet) long. Their sheer size combined with their pink fleshy bodies and tentacles make for a fascinating (and creepy) sight to behold.

One Twitter used even compared the squid carcass to popular animated character, Homer Simpson. And once you see it, you cannot un-see it ...

Elsewhere in Cape Town, a pilot whale calf was found washed ashore at Table View beach. A team from the National Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment was sent to collect the carcass and an autopsy will be carried out to determine the cause of death.

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A pilot whale calf washed up at Table View beach. Image © City of Cape Town