Map of locations where giant squid specimens have been discovered.


Archived exhibitions are no longer available for booking but are maintained as a virtual record of past Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) programs.

How much do we know about giant squid? We know that these huge invertebrates inhabit every ocean and battle sperm whales for survival. Have we ever seen a giant squid in its natural habitat, somewhere between 100 and 3,000 feet below the water’s surface? Only once, off of the coast of Japan. But the Smithsonian’s Dr. Clyde Roper and other squid-hunting teuthologists learn more every year about this elusive creature and its deep sea environment.

Remains of Architeuthis, the giant squid, have been found in fishermen’s nets, in the bellies of sperm whales, and washed ashore all over the world. Examination of these specimens reveals much about the animal’s anatomy and its likely behavior, such as how it captures prey. Volleyball-sized eyes at the sides of its head scan the surroundings for a likely target; once spied, the eyes rotate forward so that the squid can better judge the distance to its prey. By “snapping” its two tentacles together, the giant squid creates a virtually inescapable grip.

While giant squid share the body plan of all other squids, the scale of these animals is off the charts. The two largest specimens ever recorded were 60 feet long and weighed nearly a ton. Scientists recently captured tiny juvenile giant squid swimming off the coast of New Zealand. Such discoveries bring researchers closer to revealing the secrets of this living “sea monster.”

How do you catch a live giant squid?




Exhibition Specifications

Contents 5 specimens, floor case, video, 3 mechanical interactives, free-standing text panels
Supplemental Brochure, activity guide, educational resources, PR materials
Participation Fee $15,000 for 14-week booking period, plus prorated shipping
Size 1,500-2,000 square feet
(140-185 square meters)
Crates 15
Weight 1505 lbs. (683 kg.)
Category Science & Natural History
Security Moderate
Shipping Prorated, SITES-designated carrier
SITES Contacts Ed Liskey, 202.633.3142 (Scheduling)
Jennifer Bine, 202.633.3106 (Content)
Toured Through September 20, 2009



Tour Itinerary

Dates   Host Institution Status
9/25/04 1/2/05 Peabody Museum of Natural History, New Haven, CT Booked
1/22/05 5/10/5 American Fish and Wildlife Museum, Springfield, MO Booked
5/21/05 9/4/05 Provincial Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John's, NL Booked
9/24/05 1/1/06 Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, FL Booked
5/20/06 1/1/07 Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Museum, Virginia Beach, VA Booked
1/20/07 4/29/07 Delaware Museum of Natural History, Wilmington, DE Booked
5/19/07 9/2/07 The Oregon Coast Aquarium, Newport, OR Booked
9/22/07 1/10/08 Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Seattle, WA Booked
1/19/08 4/27/08 Nantucket Historical Association, Nantucket, MA Booked
5/17/08 8/31/08 The Wildlife Experience, Parker, CO Booked
9/20/08 1/10/09 California University of Pennsylvania, California, PA Booked
5/23/09 9/20/09 Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Kays, KS Booked



Related Publications

In Search of Giant Squid Curriculum Guide

Compiled by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, the National Museum of Natural History, the National Aeronautics and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2006.

Geared for 5-8 grade students with special "roadmaps" for older or younger audiences. Includes detailed lesson plans, instructive websites, student worksheets, and comprehensive teacher answer keys. Also encorporates fascinating illustrations and instructive maps.

>>Download free curriculum guide
Adobe Acrobat Required

In Search of Giant Squid Curriculum Guide

In Search of Giant Squid Challenge

Wonderful for students already engaged in the study of marine animals, this fun and educational brochure asks amateur squid researchers 14 questions about the mythical creature. Features questions, answers, and a fill-in-the-blank component.

>>Download the squid quiz

Adobe Acrobat Required



Press Release


Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Sheds Light on the Mysterious Giant Squid

They inhabit all of the world's oceans, do battle with sperm whales, can be longer than a school bus, and can weigh over 1,000 pounds. Yet, giant squid have never been seen in their natural habitat. "In Search of Giant Squid" explores what is known about these mystifying animals and describes scientists' ongoing efforts to observe them in their undersea environment. This new traveling exhibition, based on the enormously popular permanent exhibition at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, will open at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven, CT, on Sept. 25. The exhibition will remain on view at the museum through Jan. 2, 2005 and will continue on a national tour through 2008.

Carcasses of giant squid, the world's largest invertebrate, have been found in fishermen's nets, in the bellies of sperm whales, and washed ashore all over the world. Scientists have learned some things about the lives and likely habits of these intriguing deep-sea dwellers, such as the fact that giant squid have the world's largest eyes and that their clear-blue blood is based on copper rather than iron. Much still needs to be learned, however, including how long these creatures live, how fast they swim, and how whales can find them when scientists cannot.

"The oceans are a mysterious wonderland filled with millions of species of marvelously adapted creatures, most of them known only to marine biologists," says Clyde Roper, a zoologist and curator emeritus at the National Museum of Natural History. "Imagine, then, how exciting and mysterious it is to know about the existence of an animal so big that its tentacles would drag over the end of a flat-bed trailer truck! Yet, this animal has never been seen alive in its natural habitat, never observed to hunt and capture its prey, never seen to mate or lay its eggs, never observed trying to escape its massive predator, never been seen the giant squid!"

"In Search of Giant Squid," which features a giant squid beak and suckers, will help visitors examine the myths and legends that surround giant squid; compare them with other squids and mollusks; explore what is known about how they hunt, move and defend themselves; and learn about scientists' research to help understand their anatomy and behavior. Interactive components allow visitors to compare their own size to that of a giant squid and to experience the giant squid's presumed environment.

The giant squid has been the stuff of legends for more than 2,000 years, inspiring the imagination of authors like Jules Verne, who used early reports of giant squid encounters to create the colossal, tentacled monster that attacked Capt. Nemo's submarine in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. The first complete specimen of a dead giant squid was displayed in 1874 by Rev. Moses Harvey of Newfoundland. Its recovery led to the earliest accurate description of the giant squid in 1880. However, despite all that has been learned in the last 125 years about these elusive giants, they continue to mystify and to evoke the curiosity of both the scientific community and the public.

"In Search of the Giant Squid" has been developed by the National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) in partnership with the Discovery Channel. This exhibition is made possible by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for more than 50 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play, including museums, libraries, science centers, historical societies, community centers, botanical gardens, schools and shopping malls.




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