Learning About Giant Squid From Sperm Whale Stomachs

Interesting research:

By looking in the stomachs of three sperm whales stranded in the Bay of Biscay, Cherel recovered hundreds of beaks from 19 separate species—17 squids including the giant squid, the seven-arm octopus (the largest in the world) and the bizarre vampire squid. Together, these species represent a decent spread of the full diversity of deep-sea cephalopods.

He analysed the chemical composition of the beaks. and in particular, their ratio of carbon isotopes (carbon-13 compared to carbon-13) and their ratio of ratio of nitrogen isotopes (nitrogen-15 compared to nitrogen-14). These measurements are a reflection of both what and where the animals ate.

Levels of carbon-13 can tell us how deep an animal lives, whether it swims offshore or inshore, and whether it spends its time in the open ocean, or sticks close to its floor. All of the cephalopods’ carbon-13 levels fell within a narrow range, indicating that all 19 species live in similar and overlapping parts of the ocean.

Posted on April 3, 2009 at 4:28 PM10 Comments


Yikes! April 4, 2009 12:22 AM

Firefox’s smart bookmarks truncates the title: “Learning About Giant Squid From Sperm …”

Not Anonymous April 4, 2009 9:08 AM

“carbon-13 compared to carbon-13”
while it is a typo in the original article, is’s still nonsense.

Clive Robinson April 4, 2009 10:14 AM

@ Yikes!

‘Firefox’s smart bookmarks truncates the title: “Learning About Giant Squid From Sperm …”‘

You might want to find out why they are called Sperm Whale then you might change your name 😉

Counter example April 4, 2009 2:33 PM

Wikipedia’s picture of the Seven-armed octopus shows… 8 arms.

It also explains why it’s called Seven-armed. It’s sorta the opposite of what we human males call a “third leg”.

Xyz April 6, 2009 1:04 PM

I’m deducting coolness points on the basis of the fact that the beaks were found in the whales’ stomachs and not dug out from gobs of ambergris.

TS April 8, 2009 12:12 PM


not septo or more correctly, septi, those are latin.

Octopus is from the greek, so it would be heptapus.

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