The Mystery of the Kraken!

The ocean is 70% of the surface area of the Earth and we have yet to discover more than 5% of the ocean. The ocean is a big mystery to the science community and the creatures and monsters that roam around the ocean are more of a mystery and could provide us with more information about ourselves and development in medicine and other groundbreaking discoveries. Many sea creatures we know little to nothing about. The giant squids spark curiosity in the science community, they rarely surface, are rarely spotted, and very hard to keep alive when caught. Their genome, reproduction, and overall biology is a mystery to scientist today.

Cephalopod family have been studied more and more over the past years. In 2015, Caroline Albertin of the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) led a team to discover the first full cephalopod genome. With these discoveries Albertin believes that if we study the most bizarre animals like the giant squid we may discover more about ourselves because of the cephalopod genome similarities with our own. Keeping this in mind, scientist estimate that the giant squid genome has 2.7 billion DNA base pairs which is 90% the size of human genome. The part that confuses Albertin and her colleagues is how the giant squid got so “giant”. Creatures of this size are more common with vertebrates which giant squids and their fellow members of the cephalopods do not have. “While cephalopods have many complex and elaborate features, they are thought to have evolved independently of the vertebrates…'” Albertin says. Vertebrates use whole genome duplication, a strategy taken during evolution, to become massive like the sperm whale and other monster vertebrates. But giant squids do not use the same strategy. Albertin found that giant squids only have single copies of their genome. Which entertains the question of how did this invertebrate get so massive?

The mystery continues on with the relationship between vertebrates and cephalopods, the intelligence that cephalopods show in sophisticated behaviors, agility, and their ability to camouflage is incredible matches or greatly exceeds some vertebrates. The answer may be the 100 genes in the protocadherin found in the giant squid genome. “Protocadherin are thought to be important in wiring up a complicated brain correctly,” she says. “They were thought they were a vertebrate innovation, so we were really surprised when we found more than 100 of them in the octopi genome (in 2015). That seemed like a smoking gun to how you make a complicated brain. And we have found a similar expansion of protocadherin in the giant squid, as well.” This phenomenon occurring in a cephalopod answer most of the questions on how cephalopods act in very sophisticated ways.

The giant squid is a very important piece of the puzzle surrounding cephalopods, the unexplored ocean, and the mystery behind other giant invertebrates that could be hiding in the ocean right under our noses. Could there be other undiscovered species with similar intelligence and size to the giant squid in the ocean today?

About Mr. Mohn

Biology Teacher

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