Catalina Island Marine Institute
This 18-foot-long (5.5 meters) oarfish was found off a beach in Southern California on Oct. 13, 2013, and is held here by staff from the Catalina Island Marine Institute.
What has eight arms with hundreds of suckers, eyes the size of grapefruit and a razor-sharp beak? A giant squid! A team of scientists and the Discovery Channel shot footage of this notoriously elusive creature in action. Click ahead for more squidly fun.
Giant squid have captured, and terrified, the seafaring imagination for centuries. This illustration recreates a giant squid observed off Tenerife in November of 1861.
This giant squid was collected by NOAA researchers off the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico. The largest invertebrate on Earth, the giant squid is just plain big -- the largest ever found was 59 feet (18 meters) long.
The only squid bigger than a giant is the colossal squid. Captain John Bennett examines the world's first intact adult male colossal squid in 2007 in the Ross Sea, near Antarctica. The squid was about 33 feet (10 meters) long. Check out those suckers!
These two female giant squid were found off Luarca, Spain. For an idea of the size of these creatures, note the gloved hand in the upper-left.
Alien autopsy? Nope. It's one of the Luarca squid from the previous slide, undergoing an examination by Spanish scientists.
Here's a giant squid measuring about 28 feet (9 meters), on display at London's Natural History Museum. This creature was caught in March of 2004, at a depth of 722 feet (220 meters), off the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic.
A cat strolls past a giant squid in January 2005 in Newport Beach, Calif. That winter hundreds of 3- to 4-foot-long (0.9 to 1.2 meter) squid washed up along the Southern California coast. One theory holds that they ran ashore while chasing grunion.
This is another shot of a squid from the Newport Beach, Calif. wash-up. Giant squid eyes look so human because they’re structured much like human eyes are.
It may look big in the photo, but this larval squid is just 0.4 inches (1 centimeter) long and was photographed through a microscope by Russ Hopcroft, of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
The humboldt, or jumbo, squid is a carnivorous marine invertebrate with a lifespan of only 1-2 years. But it makes hay while the sun shines on its short life: In that time, it can grow to 4 feet (1.2 meters) long.
We may know it better as calamari, the familiar appetizer, but its proper name is common market squid. This adult market squid was photographed off La Jolla Shores Beach in La Jolla, Calif.
This adult jumbo squid was caught near the Channel Islands by a squid jig aboard an NOAA research ship in 2007. Its tentacles are wrapped around the jig that was used to catch it, which worked by attracting the squid to its glowing yellow plastic.
This is a closer look at the 2007 Channel Islands squid. Its telltale large eyes allow the creature to see in the very low light that permeates its deep underwater habitat.
A squid's razor-sharp beak is a merciless weapon against its prey, allowing it to chomp tasty bites out of its victims. Here we see a close-up of a Caribbean reef squid's beak.
The staff and kids at a Southern California educational facility got quite a surprise when an 18-foot-long (5.5 meters) serpentlike sea creature washed up near the shore.
While swimming in about 20 feet (5 meters) of water, dive instructor Jasmine Santana saw a large, silvery, slender figure on the sandy bottom on Sunday (Oct. 13). It turned out to be a dead oarfish, a rare animal that is typically found in much deeper waters, said Jeff Chace, with the Catalina Island Marine Institute, which teaches kids about marine science.
Santana dragged the fish to shore, where the staff took photographs and then put it on ice to show to their students the next day. "The kids were stunned, excited, giggly," Chace told LiveScience's OurAmazingPlanet.
Oarfish are rarely found near the shore, and usually only arrive there once they are sick or dead, Chace said. This animal appeared to die of natural causes. Nobody at the institute had seen one before, he added.
The animals live in the deep ocean and are believed to grow up to nearly 50 feet (15 m) long, Chace said. This makes them the world's longest bony fish, a group that includes almost all fish except sharks and rays (whale sharks are the largest fish in the ocean). The fish swim with their head upright and their tail hanging beneath them, and can easily move backward and forward and up and down quickly, observations of the fish have shown.
In August 2011, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) captured a rare video of a live oarfish in the Gulf of Mexico. Oarfish are so-called because of appendages at the end of their pelvic spines that look like paddles, which are used to help them balance and swim upright.
Staff members at the institute plan to bury the oarfish by the ocean, Chace said.
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Extreme Life on Earth: 8 Bizarre Creatures
In Photos: Spooky Deep-Sea Creatures
Gallery: Creatures from the Census of Marine Life