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IMAGE: Colossal Squid
New Zealand Fisheries via AP
This huge squid was caught in early February in the Ross Sea off Antarctica. It was weighed at 990 pounds, which if confirmed on shore would break the earlier record by 330 pounds.
msnbc.com news services
updated 2/22/2007 12:16:26 PM ET 2007-02-22T17:16:26

A fishing crew has caught a colossal squid that could weigh a half-ton and prove to be the biggest specimen ever landed, a fisheries official said Thursday.

The squid, weighing an estimated 990 pounds and about 39 feet long, took two hours to land in Antarctic waters, New Zealand Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said.

The fishermen were catching Patagonian toothfish, sold under the name Chilean sea bass, south of New Zealand "and the squid was eating a hooked toothfish when it was hauled from the deep," Anderton said in a statement.

“The squid was almost dead when it reached the surface, and the careful work of the crew was paramount in getting this specimen aboard in good condition,” Anderton said. "It is likely that it is the first intact adult male colossal squid to ever be successfully landed."

The fishing crew and a fisheries official on board their ship estimated the length and weight of the squid: Detailed, official measurements have not been made. The date when the colossus was caught also was not disclosed.

Possibly 330 pounds heavier
Colossal squid, known by the scientific name Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, are estimated to grow up to 46 feet long and have long been one of the most mysterious creatures of the deep ocean.

If original estimates are correct, the squid would be 330 pounds heavier than the next biggest specimen ever found.

IMAGE: Colossal Squid
New Zealand Fisheries via AP
A New Zealand fisherman shows off the colossal squid.
"I can assure you that this is going to draw phenomenal interest. It is truly amazing," said Steve O'Shea, a squid expert at the Auckland University of Technology. If calamari rings were made from the squid they would be the size of tractor tires, he added.

Colossal squid can descend to 6,500 feet and are extremely active, aggressive hunters, he said.

The frozen squid, which was described as having eyes as big as dinner plates, will be transported to New Zealand's national museum, Te Papa, in the capital, Wellington, to be preserved for scientific study.

Explaining mysteries
Marine scientists "will be very interested in this amazing creature as it adds immeasurably to our understanding of the marine environment," Anderton said.

"Ongoing examination of this giant will help to unlock some of the mysteries of the deep ocean, he added. "Even basic questions such as such as how large does this species grow to, and how long does it live for are not yet known."

Colossal squid are found in Antarctic waters and are not related to giant squid found around the coast of New Zealand. Giant squid grow up to 39 feet long, but are not as heavy as colossal squid.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Video: Giant haul

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