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Monday, 22 July, 2002, 14:47 GMT 15:47 UK
'New species' of giant squid found
Giant squid being taken to musuem in Hobart
Scientists took the squid to the Tasmanian Museum
A giant squid that washed up on an Australian beach over the weekend could be a member of a new species, according to Australian scientists.

The 250 kilogram (550 pound) specimen was found dead on a beach in Hobart, Tasmania. Scientists transported the animal in a trailer to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, where they examined it further.

Giant squid
The squid has long flaps of muscle attached to each arm
Experts found several characteristics which they say they have never encountered before - including long, thin flaps of muscle attached to each of the squid's eight arms.

What we've seen on this animal we haven't seen on other squid, and it's a significant feature," said the museum's senior curator of zoology, David Pemberton.

"It's basically like having a pile of muscles on your own body that nobody else has," he said.

The squid had lost its two tentacles, which Mr Pemberton said would have been about 15 metres (50 feet) long.

Shrouded in mystery

Only two other giant squid have ever been found in Tasmania, in 1986 and 1991.

There are dozens of species of large squid in the world's oceans, but the giant squid is by far the largest.

None have ever been seen alive, and the animal often features in maritime legends and fables, including Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

The largest invertebrate on the planet, it is a member of the class Cephalopoda, which includes octopus, nautilus, and extinct ammonite species.

Even if the scientists had wanted to, they could not have made a feast of the mysterious squid.

Mr Pemberton said its high ammonia content would have made it unpleasant to eat, tasting a bit like floor cleaner.

See also:

14 Jan 02 | England
21 Dec 01 | Science/Nature
03 Jul 00 | Science/Nature
14 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
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