back to article Mega squid use HUMONGOUS eyes to spot ravenous sperm whales

Ocean-researching boffins reckon they have figured out why giant and colossal deep sea-dwelling squid need the largest eyes in the animal kingdom: to spot huge predators like sperm whales. Fresh head of a giant squid caught in 1981 Fresh head of a giant squid caught in 1981 by fisherman Henry Olsen. Picture by Ernie Choy at …


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  1. TRT Silver badge

    That picture is not a squid...

    it's a Dalek creature.

    1. Mike Brown

      Re: That picture is not a squid...

      thats pic freaks me out slightly. bleurgh

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    in other words...

    they need big eyes because it's dark down there.

    unlike killer whales, which have invested in brain matter only, and stay shallow anyway.

  3. Sir Cosmo Bonsor

    > "the boffins theorise that their eyes collect more light than other giant animals with smaller optical orbs".

    Groundbreaking stuff, who would have thought it! I wonder how those eyes get so big in the first place?

    > "Maybe they just grow that big."

    Thanks, boffins. I don't know how much this research is costing, but it's worth every penny.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      You're missing the point...

      it's a question of survival advantage. If it was a simple advantage to gather more photons, everything down there in the dark would have bigger eyes. What they said was the squid is somewhere near the top of the food chain, and its main/only predator is the somewhat more massive whale. Those squid with the better photon gathering gear that could detect the bioluminescent bloom as a passing whale swirled it up could dive and hide before they got eaten, so reproduced more frequently.

      1. Graham Bartlett

        Re: You're missing the point...

        Not quite. There's a simple advantage to not being eaten. Available countermeasures are:-

        1) See the predator coming.

        2) Hear the predator coming.

        3) Use sonar to detect the predator coming.

        4) Use bioelectricity to detect the predator coming.

        5) Put up enough of a fight to drive off the predator.

        6) Be fast enough that you're hard to catch.

        7) Taste seriously nasty (or actually be poisonous).

        8) Have enough of your mates around that if a few get eaten, it's no big deal.

        Like many animals, the squid has kind of gone for number 5 - a lot of sperm whales apparently have squid scars. But once a bloody great whale has got you in its mouth and started chomping, the best you can do is hurt it a bit before it finishes chewing. So not getting caught in the first place is kind of useful.

        As a large animal, many of the other options are not available. And being a cephalopod eliminates some other possibilities. So being able to see better is pretty much the only evolutionary strategy.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: You're missing the point...

          Evolution isn't a menu you're presented with and make a selection from you know. The number of supposedly scholarly articles I see that 'explain' features like this...

        2. Ken Hagan Gold badge


          You are correct and I feel your pain. On the other hand, evolution *is* a menu that random chance gets to choose from and natural selection then demonstrates which lucky descendants had a good choice made on their behalf. It's easy to see why so many people end up using the language of choice and success. (But a glance at the Intelligent Design crowd reminds us that evolutionary biology desparately needs to come up with something better.)

          In Graham's defence, nowhere in his piece does he actively suggest that the squid (or its genome) is making a conscious choice. Also, I've tried to produce an alternative wording for his penultimate paragraph that adequately conjures the right imagery in my own head. I failed. It isn't that easy. (IMHO, a modest improvement might be obtained by saying that "all except 5" are "unsuccessful". This at least reflects the truth that the vast majority of mutations are selected against.)

          1. Eddy Ito

            Re: @TRT

            I pose that "6" wasn't really an option since they likely are faster, in their environment anyway, and it kind of implies they know a predator is bearing down or constantly stay at speed. I'm not saying that sperm whales aren't capable of high speeds but staying nearly a kilometer down for 30 minutes or so on a single, albeit huge, gulp of air means conserving a good deal of energy. It only seems logical that the whale relies mostly on stealth making only minor movements for course correction in order to catch the tonne or so of food it needs daily and so only minimally disturbs the bioluminescent critters. Given that tiny amount of light, it would take such a large eye to detect it a distance that would prove useful.

            It would be fascinating to know if the squids eye is particularly sensitive to the wavelengths of light of the aforementioned bioluminescence. Then again it would be equally fascinating to know how the whale manages to hold its breath for an hour with lungs collapsed to 1% their original size and ribs that must fold like an accordion, never mind avoiding the bends on a 10 minute ascent.

            It's things like this that make me wish I had more time to study.

  4. Thomas 4
    IT Angle

    It is dark.

    You are likely to be eaten by a sperm whale.

    1. Morphius
      Thumb Up

      Re: It is dark.

      Ahhhhh, Zork... That brings back memories!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It is dark.

      But hasn't other research decided that sperm whales probably have relatively simplistic hunting techniques on the basis that the energy gained by eating a big squid is actual less than would be expended in any significant change in their direction - so sperm whales have probably developed their sonar based hunting techniques to detect squid ahead of them from a reasonable distance and make minor adjustments to direction to target them so in response if squid developed eyes that can detect the whales from a similar distance and start to move off the line of approach then they can escape since the whale isn't going to wast energy by turning sharply to follow squid.

  5. Jan 0 Silver badge

    Your Lance of Death tickles the sperm whale.

    You are eaten by the sperm whale.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      You are in the stomach of a sperm whale.

      There is some partially digested squid here.

      Available directions are gullet and gut.

      1. Locky

        There is a wooden puppet here, and a sailor who calls himself Jonah

  6. S 11

    So it's agreed

    The eyes have it.

  7. Anonymous Coward 101

    Stupid Evolution!

    It would seem to be much more effective for the squids to develop a way of sensing the sperm whale sonar (be it with ears or a highly refined sense of touch) rather than developing increasingly massive eyes which will still only be effective with a certain level of light.

    1. DJ 2

      Re: Stupid Evolution!

      Squid with DNA anomaly...

      "Ooh what's that tingly feeling, sort of really low base sound and then it ticks.. lets go see what it is......"

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Stupid Evolution!

        There's no squid-master general to yell "It's a trap!"

      2. P. Lee

        Re: Stupid Evolution!

        Has anyone ever seen a natural DNA anomaly grant a new additional beneficial feature?

        1. mfritz0

          Re: Stupid Evolution!

          Yes, maybe. Possibly Autism. Idiot savants are possibly genetic mutations. It's the natural selection part that gets them though.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Stupid Evolution!

      In a biological context, evolution is "random mutation followed by natural selection" and the blind stupidity of that mechanism is precisely the point of Darwin's discovery.

      I refer you to TRT's comment a screenful or two further up.

  8. Ru

    Giant Squid are crap, anyway

    What kind of a lousy design is 'throat goes through brain' anyway? Remember squidlings, chew your food properly or you might actually inflict traumatic brain injury on yourself. Awesome.

    Feed em to a shoal of Humboldt squid, I say. They don't mess around with that sort of nonsense.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Giant Squid are crap, anyway

      Well if it is intelligent design, then God is a bastard.

      1. Ru

        Re: Well if it is intelligent design, then God is a bastard.

        Quite. Respiratory and digestive tracts crossing over, anyone?

        Malicious design seems like a much more apt term.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Not being eaten is not the only reason to develop eyesight and sperm whales aren't their only enemy. A squids gotta eat too ... and big eyes help a whole bunch in that department.

  10. ian 22

    Stephen Fry explains it to you

    A large eye is needed to see large things. A whale is quite large so squid need large eyes to see them properly. Stars and planets are very very large, which is why telescopes are so very


  11. Winston Smith

    They've neglected the classics

    Oh Squid, what big eyes you have!

    The better to see you with, my dear!

    <== Closest I could find to a wolf. Or a red hood.

  12. Snowball Solar System

    Oort Cloud Cephalopods

    The ability of cephalopods to see by the light of disturbed bioluminescence may stem from their origin in Oort-cloud compound-comet oceans of the Ordovician period, rather than from their transplanted home on earth.

    The Appalachian Basin Platform may be one such compound comet core from the inner Oort cloud that formed around the resonances of a companion star (Nemesis) orbiting our sun. Oort cloud comets may still be forming around the resonances of Nemesis (such as the hypothesized Younger Dryas comet impact 12,900 B.P.) in the same way that asteroid-belt planetesimals formed around the resonances of Jupiter.

    1. John 62

      Re: Oort Cloud Cephalopods

      awesome explanation!

  13. Paul 129

    Isn't it obvoius

    With the eye volume, they have their own cosmic ray detector.

    Giant squid, ha! I'm scared of the one can see neutrinos

  14. P. Lee
    Big Brother

    Scientists in "Eyes used to see stuff" Shock!

    See above...

    <-- BB, obviously.

  15. cybervigilante

    How big is the eye of the Goldman-Sachs Vampire Squid? It has to see all the money in all our pockets so it can suck it out of us. Must be X-ray vision like Superman.

  16. PeteWarren

    Squid arms shock

    Scientists have revealed that the giant squid has evolved giant arms to catch big things shock. Researchers have confirmed that giant squid that used their huge tentacles to catch plankton with tweezers have now all died out. The only squid now surviving being ones that used their gigantic tentacles to do giantish things while staring at their victims with cold, heartless, unblinking, eyes in the abyssal deeps while they kept a wary eye out for marauding sperm whales.

  17. jukejoint

    I have developed large eyes in order to apprehend signs advertising calamari.

  18. hu

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