The Gulf of Mexico is home to sea creatures of mythical proportions, and a team of scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association has a fish story to prove it.
While on a study mission earlier this summer, a NOAA crew pulled in a trawl net to find an exceptionally rare catch: a giant squid.
"As the trawl net rose out of the water, I could see that we had something big in there ... really big," said Anthony Martinez, chief scientist on the 60-day research cruise, in a NOAA news release. "We knew there was a remote possibility of encountering a giant squid on this cruise, but it was not something we were realistically expecting."
The squid caught July 30 is 19 1/2 feet long and weighs about 103 pounds. It is only the second specimen of its kind to be obtained from the Gulf.
According to NOAA, scientists know the giant squid lives in the Gulf based on remnants found in the
stomachs of predators, including the sperm whale.
But it's been more than half a century since a complete giant squid was collected anywhere in the Gulf. A dead squid was found floating on the water's surface in 1954 near the Mississippi Delta.
Giant squid are more often caught in continental slope areas, where the relatively shallow water near a continent drops off into the deep sea.
The team that caught the squid was traveling off the coast of Louisiana, studying the availability and diversity of sperm whale prey.
NOAA sent the squid to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., where it will be archived and available for study.