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Te Papa's Colossal Squid On The Move

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

31 July 2008 - Te Papa's colossal squid, Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, will be moved from its preservation tank into a purpose built display tank on Wednesday 6 August. The process will be webcast live on Te Papa's website www.tepapa.govt/squid. Te Papa experts will be manning the blog to provide updates and answer questions and the film crew for the Discovery Channel US's documentary will be in attendance.

The colossal squid move is likely to take about 6 hours. The process involves draining 6000 litres of toxic formalin solution from the preserving tank and rinsing the specimen with fresh water. The squid will be turned over, enabling scientists to remove eggs through a rip in the specimen's mantle and then repair the rip, ready for display. Finally the specimen will be hoisted into the display tank with 5000 litres of propylene glycol (an antimicrobial fluid used for storing preserved specimens). The display tank will be stored in the Tory St facility until it can go on public display in the exhibit space in Te Papa at the end of the year.

Te Papa staff investigated the various display methods of other squids around the world before deciding on the specifications of the display tank. The tank is made from stainless steel with a concave acrylic lid and is approximately 4.6m long, 1.6m wide and 0.9m deep. This will allow the specimen to be dramatically lit from inside the tank, and provide the clearest view of the squid.

Te Papa is delighted to acknowledge the support of the Discovery Channel in the preservation of the colossal squid specimen. Their support included the entire thaw and examination process being filmed by Natural History New Zealand for a Discovery Channel in-depth documentary programme to be released worldwide in late 2008.

The colossal squid was landed by the New Zealand fishing vessel, the San Aspiring, in the Ross Sea in 2007 and gifted to Te Papa by the Ministry of Fisheries. Stored for a year in a freezer in Te Papa's Tory St facility, it was defrosted in April 2008 and examined by a team of international scientists. The webcast of the examination (and the dissection of two giant squid and a smaller damaged colossal squid) was the first of its kind in the world and attracted up to 2400 simultaneous viewers each day and 450,000 visits to Te Papa's website. The 2007 female colossal squid is the most massive invertebrate ever discovered, weighing in at 495kg. It is 4.2 metres long and holds the record for the world's largest eye measuring 27cm in diameter.

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