Page last updated at 10:34 GMT, Monday, 31 March 2008 11:34 UK

Giant preserved squid on display

Preserved giant squid in Paris museum

A specially preserved giant squid has gone on display in Paris.

The squid, 6.5m (21.5ft) long, has undergone plastination, which means its liquids have been replaced by a polymer.

The process, which took two-and-a-half years and cost 65,000 euros ($100,000; 50,000), is designed to make the preserved squid look as natural as possible.

The creature is a gift from New Zealand, where it was fished out of the deep seas in 2000.

Sea monster

The squid hangs from the ceiling of France's National Museum of Natural History, where its long pink tentacles stretch down towards a terrified-looking shark.

The giant creature has been named Wheke, after the sea monster of Maori mythology that led the Polynesians across the ocean to discover Aotearoa, or New Zealand.

It was 9m long when it was caught, but it shrank to 6.5m after it died.

The biologist who helped organise the donation said there should be a giant squid in the country of Jules Verne - the Frenchman who wrote the celebrated novel 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.

That was an epic tale of struggles between sailors and tentacled monsters, featuring a giant squid that tried to engulf a submarine.

Fluids replaced

The plastination process involves replacing the water, fat and other liquids in the body with a polymer that hardens.

A pink pigment was added to make it look as close as possible to the living creature.

It was first used by the German anatomist Gunther von Hagens, who has controversially preserved and exhibited human cadavers.

The usual way of preserving life forms - by pickling them in a jar - would, the museum said, have been demeaning, and out of the question.

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