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Tissue samples from beached giant squid reveal possible cause of death

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After images of a beached squid at Kommetjie went viral, the SPCA managed to salvage a few tissue samples that were sent to the Iziko Museum to determine a possible cause of death, however the important parts that would have offered valuable insight had already been removed.

‘We were only able to salvage a few tissue samples for Iziko as the most important pieces of the animal that could have offered us insight into aspects of the animal’s age, its diet, and cause of death had already been removed by fishermen and trophy hunters,’ SPCA spokesperson, Jon Friedman said.

There was not much left on the carcass when the SPCA arrived on the scene, with the sought after bits such as eyes, tentacles and the beak removed. The beak forms an important part of ambergris, a sought after ingredient in the perfume industry.

Identifying the cause of death was particularly important when considering the amount of dead and dying marine life washing up on the West Coast shore over the past year, which saw mass cape fur seal fatalities which scientists are still trying to determine the cause of.

‘From the condition of its internal organs that were left behind, I would say that the animal seemed in good health, her stomach was full and she was only about two years old,’ Friedman commented. ‘As to her cause of death, I would say that she was most likely struck by a ship while she was at the sea surface as giant squid are normally deep ocean dwellers, typically inhabiting depths of between 300 and 1 000 metres.’

He added that unless more strandings of giant squid occur, this case is no cause for alarm.

Picture: Ali Paulus

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