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Japanese Scientists Photograph Giant Squid



Subject(s) Science --Life Sciences ----Animals


Grades 2-up

News Content

Scientists capture first-ever photos of a giant squid in its habitat.

Anticipation Guide

Before reading, ask students to agree or disagree with each of the statements below.

  • For many years, scientists have studied sea creatures known as giant squids in their natural habitat.
  • Giant squids live in shallow waters of the Pacific Ocean.
  • Giant squids are very slow and "lazy" creatures.
  • Giant squids have the largest eyes of any living creature.

    News Words

    Introduce these words before students read the article:

  • Bonin Islands -- islands in the western Pacific Ocean, about 600 miles south-southeast of Tokyo (point out the islands on a map)
  • tentacle -- a part that extends from the body of some creatures, such as the octopus, jellyfish, and giant squid
  • invertebrate -- creatures that have no backbone; for example, spiders and worms are invertebrates

    Read the News

    Click for a printable version of this week's news story Japanese Scientists Photograph Giant Squid.

    Reading the News

    You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:
  • Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.
  • Students might first read the news story to themselves; then call on individual students to read the news aloud for the class.
  • Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write a note in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

  • More Facts to Share

    You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this week's news story.

  • The first complete specimen of a giant squid was found off Newfoundland, Canada, in 1874.
  • Giant squids mainly eat fish and other squid; that knowledge is based on an analysis of the stomach contents of giant squids that have washed ashore.
  • Squids move through the water by taking in water. They use a funnel-shaped body part to shoot out a jet of water that propels them. That funnel, or siphon, is also used in breathing, squirting ink, laying eggs, and getting rid of waste.
  • How did the scientists know where to drop their remote-controlled cameras? They followed packs of sperm whales, because sperm whales are known to prey on giant squid. When they found squid remains near a pack of sperm whales in the waters near the Bonin Islands, they decided to "drop" their cameras there. Scientists set up multiple cameras. Each camera used a bag of mashed shrimp as an odor lure. The cameras focused downward at hooks baited with small squid.
  • The giant squid was photographed at a depth of about 3,000 feet.
  • The eyes of the photographed giant squid were the size of grapefruits, but a larger squid's eyes might be the size of dinner plates. Its large eyes enable a squid to gather the small amounts of light that are available in the deep ocean.
  • The squid caught one of its tentacles on one of the camera's bait hooks. The camera recorded a struggle that lasted more than four hours. Eventually, the squid broke free, but it left behind an 18-foot length of tentacle. Once on the surface, scientists reported that "the recovered section of tentacle was still functioning with the large suckers of the tentacle club repeatedly gripping the boat deck and any offered fingers."
  • The photographed giant squid is estimated to be 26 feet long. Giant squid can grow to be about 60 feet long and to weigh 1 ton. So how can scientists be certain that the creature in the photographs is a giant squid? They confirmed that by comparing DNA from the tentacle that was left behind to DNA taken from species that have washed ashore.
  • Scientists are already learning new things about giant squids from the photographs. Most scientists thought that the squid's tentacles were "weak fishing lines" dangled to lure fish to eat. But the photographs show that the squid uses its tentacles to grab at its prey. Then it coils its tentacles into a ball in much the same way pythons curl around their prey.

    Comprehension Check

    Revisit the Anticipation Guide at the top of this lesson; ask students to respond again to the statements in it.

  • For many years, scientists have studied sea creatures known as giant squids in their natural habitat. (false, few squids have been seen in their natural habitat)
  • Giant squids live in shallow waters of the Pacific Ocean. (false, they live in the deepest parts of the ocean)
  • Giant squids are very slow and "lazy" creatures. (false, the new photographs show squid to be more active creatures than previously believed)
  • Giant squids has the largest eyes of any living creature. (true)

    You might follow-up that activity with some of these questions:

    Recalling Detail

  • How many arms do squids have? (ten; eight short arms and two tentacles)
  • For how many years have the scientists been trying to capture pictures of this squid? (three years)
  • What have scientists learned from the pictures that they did not know before? (they've learned that giant squid are more active than they thought; that squid use their tentacles to surround prey much as a python does)

    Think About the News
    Discuss the Think About the News questions that appear on the students' news page. See another thinking question in the Follow-Up Activities section below.

    Additional Resources to Share
    In Search of Giant Squid
    National Geographic News Photo Gallery

    Follow-Up Activities

    Writing. Imagine you were one of the Japanese scientists who captured the first-ever photographs of a giant squid in its natural habitat. What would you write in your journal on the day of this huge discovery? Write the journal entry that you imagine one of those scientists might have written.

    Geography. Provide students with practice in map reading by asking the following questions about the Giant Squid Map. The map shows where giant squid specimens have been caught or found stranded.

  • Have more squid specimens been found in oceans north of the equator or south of the equator? (north of the equator)
  • Have more squid been found off the eastern or western coasts of the United States? (eastern)
  • According to the map, have more squid specimens been found in the Atlantic Ocean or Pacific Ocean? (Atlantic Ocean)
  • Have more squid specimens been found off the northern or southern coast of Africa? (southern)
  • Have more specimens of giant squid been found off North America or South America? (North America)
  • Have more giant squid specimens been found off the coast of Africa or Australia? (Africa)


    Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News questions on the news story page.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    National Standards

    National Standards

    GRADES K - 4
    NS.K-4.1 Science as Inquiry
    NS.K-4.3 Life Science
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NS.5-8.1 Science as Inquiry
    NS.5-8.3 Life Science
    NS.9-12.1 Science as Inquiry
    NS.9-12.3 Life Science

    See recent news stories in Education World's News Story of the Week Archive.

    Article by Gary Hopkins
    Education World®
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