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Professor: Big squid strayed too far north

Posted: Friday, October 01, 2010

It didn't take long for Chance to find the pink-ish, stinking pile of decomposing squid on the beach.

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Courtesy Of Blain Anderson
Courtesy Of Blain Anderson

The 11-year-old husky-shepherd mix sniffed out the dead cephalopod mollusk just south of the LeConte Glacier, about 16 miles south of Petersburg, on a recent walk with his owners, Blain and Monique Anderson, who have been sightseeing and sailing in Southeast for the last year. But this was no ordinary bit of calamari.

According to Blain Anderson, it was big, really big - over 13 feet in length, he guessed.

"Two of the tentacles were 7 feet long each," he said. "The ends of those have hooks ... like a bobcat, around 40 or 50 of them."

Along with these "wicked claws," Anderson said the squid was still in relatively good condition.

"There was no injury, there was no trauma that I could tell," he said.

And then there was the beak.

"The beak was awesome," he said. "It was bigger than a parrot's beak. It looked like it could really do some damage."

The creature is not a common one to find in Southeast and its arrival here is a bit of a mystery.

Sherry Tamone, a professor of marine biology at the University of Alaska Southeast, looked at Anderson's pictures and guessed the creature was likely a very large humboldt squid that had accidentally hitched a ride on a dead-end warm current headed north. Once the creature reached waters too cold for its metabolism to stay stable, it likely perished. Just as a lizard basks in the sun to boost its mobility, the opposite can happen to organisms when an environment becomes too cold to sustain necessary bodily functions, she said.

And while a squid like this is not common in this region, it's certainly not unheard of, Tamone said.

"We don't know as much as we think we do about ranges," she said. "I've read in textbooks that weather (pattern) oscillations can bring up some."

Regardless of where it came from or how it arrived here, Anderson said he couldn't imagine a more unusual thing to find on a beach.

"It was completely foreign," he said. "The water there is quite cold with a lot of glacial silt, there are strong tides and current ... it was certainly a strange creature in a strange place."

• Contact Outdoors editor Abby Lowell at abby.lowell@juneauempire.com.



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