For the first time in 22 years, a giant squid has turned up in Irish waters. The 5.8-metre (19ft) specimen was hauled up recently by trawl fishermen on the country's southwest coast.

The squid (genus Architeuthiswas brought up as bycatch during a trawl some 120 miles off the coast of Dingle. The sighting is just the sixth of its kind for Ireland, and interestingly, the first recorded individual was also found in this area. Local fisherman Pete Flannery, who made the recent catch, suspects this has something to do with the so-called "Porcupine bank", an area near the continental shelf that drops down 3,000 metres to the seabed.

Marine biologist Dr Kevin Flannery, director of the local Oceanworld Aquarium, agrees. He postulates that deep-dwelling squid traverse the bank in search of prey, where they are sometimes intercepted by nets. 

"This particular vessel was trawling in the Porcupine for prawns," he said in a video interview with RTE News. "This is close to the drop-off of our shelf, and obviously [the animal] came up onto the shelf and was caught." 

It's tough to say exactly what drove this animal into shallower water, but Flannery's hunch is a good one. Giant squid eat mostly deep-water fishes and squids (including other giant squids!), and even at its shallowest point, the Porcupine bank is still some 200 meters down – so it's entirely plausible that this animal was hunting near the trawl.

Sick or injured individuals tend to move up the water column as well, but this particular squid didn't show any obvious signs of trauma or illness (aside from damage incurred in the nets).  

After photos of the supersized cephalopod began to surface online, media outlets were quick to run wild with the story. Giant squid are certainly big, but as we've mentioned, this specimen was not even close to the reported 15.8 metres long. In fact, it's possible that no giant squid matches up to such proportions. 

In 1879, scientists reported a whopping 17.37-metre giant, and several other specimens have come in at around 15 metres. But many scientists are skeptical about these numbers. For starters, they weren't recorded using contemporary methods, and many of the estimates were based on incomplete carcasses. 

A recent study suggests that the average size for an adult giant squid is closer to 12 meters (40ft) – about the length of the largest complete and well-preserved specimen on record. Others suspect the maximum could be much larger, but we have yet to find concrete evidence of this.

However, we can say with certainty that the Dingle squid was clearly a juvenile. "We know it was a young male and it would have grown much bigger," Flannery told The Irish Times

Oceanworld is currently housing the specimen, but it will soon be moved to the Natural History Museum, where scientists from around the world will have access to it for years to come. 

"Unfortunately the squid was dead when it was hauled up," says the Oceanworld team. "So it will be going to the museum for their records and for further analysis about the species."



Top header image: (not giant) squid tentacle jsutcℓiffe/Flickr