The World’s 5 Largest Squid

Written by Jesse Elop
Updated: September 6, 2022
Image Credit Ernie Hounshell/Shutterstock.com
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Key Points

  • There are about 300 recognized species of squid
  • The colossal squid is the largest squid in the world and can weigh up to 1500 pounds.
  • Many squid use bioluminescence as communication and for hunting their prey.

In Nordic folklore, seafaring pirates feared the unknown monsters of the ocean, especially the Kraken. This enormous squid-like creature was said to have engulfed entire ships in treacherous waters bringing the crews down with it. Although the infamous Kraken only exists in maritime storytelling, it is speculated that it was inspired by some very large, very real deep-sea squid.

There are around 300 recognized species of squid although it is believed there are more yet to be discovered. These animals are incredibly diverse and are unique in a number of ways. Squid come in a vast array of different colors and many, like the bioluminescent firefly squid and vampire squid, are capable of glowing in the dark.

With more than 300 species of squid their diet can vary dramatically. Squid are omnivorous and the larger species will eat anything they can catch, including sharks and smaller squid. Crustaceans such as shrimp and some species of fish are primary sources of nutrition for squid. 

These animals also come in many different sizes ranging from the tiny 0.175 gram pygmy squid to the largest invertebrate on the planet. This article will dive deeper into what is known of these mysterious animals. Here are the five largest squid in the world based on maximum weight. 

#5: Humboldt Squid- 110lbs

Animals that fly – flying squid
Flying squid have been known to “fly” during migration and to escape predators.

Shpatak/Shutterstock.com

The Humboldt squid, often called the jumbo squid, can grow up to 110 pounds with a maximum length of up to 7 feet. This squid is found in the eastern Pacific ocean and is the largest of the flying squid. They are most often found in large shoals of about 1,200 individuals and live at depths between 660 and 12,300 feet. The conservation status of this animal is classified as data deficient.

Humboldt squid can swim up to 15 miles per hour and are vicious predators. They primarily feed on other mollusks, small fish, and crustaceans, but are also frequent cannibals.  In pursuit of prey, Humboldt squid chase down and attack using their barbed tentacle suckers. They then tear apart the prey’s flesh with their razor sharp, parrot-like beak. Each sucker has a ring of sharp teeth and the squid’s beak can easily tear tough tissue. There have been verified reports of human attacks, primarily on deep-sea divers.

The Humboldt squid also has fascinating chromogenic behavior. This means they are able to generate light and use it as a tool to produce communicative signals. They produce red and white light across their entire body that they flicker between at different rates and intensities. It is postulated that this is primarily a tool for communicating within the species either for mating purposes or as a warning signal.

#4: Robust Clubhook Squid- 110lbs

The robust clubhook squid can grow up to a whopping 110 pounds with an exceptional length up to 13 feet. This rare squid lives in the northern Pacific ocean  at depths of 100-1,700 feet and is the largest in its family of hooked squids. The robust humboldt squid reportedly feeds on small fish and jellyfish and is preyed upon by sperm whales, sharks, and fur seals. The conservation status of the robust clubhook squid is classified as data deficient.  The robust clubhook squid is named for its distinctive tentacular clubs. Each tentacle contains 15 to 18 club hooks that are used to latch onto prey. Each arm of the robust clubhook squid has 50-60 suckers and can grow to be as long as the mantle (the “body”) of the squid.

#3: Dana Octopus Squid- 356lbs

Red Squid
A red squid deep in the ocean

Konstantin Novikov/Shutterstock.com

The largest recorded dana octopus squid weighed a massive 356 pounds and was 7.5 feet long. They live in every ocean except the polar seas in depths up to 2,400 feet below sea level. This squid’s conservation status is classified as being of least concern.

The dana octopus squid is preyed upon by lancetfish, swordfish, hammerhead, tiger and blue sharks, short-finned pilot whales, and most prominently, sperm whales. It is believed that these squid are skilled, highly maneuverable swimmers that can be quite evasive. Few specimens have been observed in the wild or collected for study, however, some animals have been documented including from the stomachs of sharks. 

The dana octopus squid has been documented using bioluminescence as a tool for communication and hunting. Footage of a dana octopus squid in its natural habitat was obtained for the first time in 2005 and a unique hunting strategy was observed. The squid emits blinding flashes of light to stun and disorient its prey when it attacks. It then uses its tentacles and sharp beak to trap and consume its prey. Juvenile squid have also been documented flashing light and charging at potential predators as a defensive intimidation tactic to stun and confuse them. It has also been suggested that bioluminescence is used for mating or territorial purposes.

#2: Giant Squid- 606lbs

Giant squid
Giant squids can reach incredible lengths

sciencepics/Shutterstock.com

The Atlantic giant squid is estimated to weigh up to 606 pounds and is capable of reaching lengths between 39-43 feet, making it the longest squid in the world. Giant squid inhabit the deep-sea between an estimated 989-3,280 feet and have therefore been incredibly hard to study. Very few have been studied alive and most of what is known about them comes from studying carcasses that have washed up onto beaches. Carcasses have been found around the world suggesting they inhabit many of the world’s oceans, however, specimens are rarely found in tropical or polar latitudes. The first pictures of a live giant squid were not taken until 2004 by a team of Japanese scientists. The giant squid’s conservation status is listed as least concern.

The giant squid’s diet consists of deep-sea fish species, other smaller squid, and possibly some whales. The giant squid is a solitary hunter and catches its prey using two tentacles with barbed suckers. There is some evidence that giant squid may be cannibalistic- parts of a giant squid beak were found in the stomach contents of another giant squid in TasmaniaSperm whales are the only confirmed predators of giant squid and scientists often try to track the whales in an attempt to locate giant squid.

Giant squid are accredited for having one of the largest eyeballs on earth measuring up to 11 inches in diameter. Having such large eyes allows them to detect light in the darkest parts of the deep-sea. Scientists are also greatly interested in the giant squid’s complex brain and nervous system.

#1: Colossal Squid- 1,090lbs

Colossal squid group
Colossal squid aren’t as long as giant squids, but have heavier bodies

Jiri Flogel/Shutterstock.com

The colossal squid is incredibly large with a weight of at least 1,090 pounds and a length estimated between 30-33 feet. This size makes the colossal squid the largest squid in the world.

The largest confirmed colossal squid weight is 1,090 pounds based off of a live specimen captured in 2007; however, based on colossal squid beaks that have been recovered, scientists predict they can reach weights up to 1,300-1,500 pounds. Colossal squids are shorter than giant squids but are heavier and have larger eyes measuring 12-16 inches in diameter.

Colossal squid are believed to be ambush predators and use bioluminescence to attract their prey. They are also known to be a significant prey of sperm whales. Many sperm whales have been studied with scarring and injuries inflicted by colossal squid. Colossal squid beaks have also been collected from sperm whale stomachs.

These squid are believed to primarily inhabit the Southern Ocean circumferential to Antarctica up to 13,000 feet deep. Because they live at such extraordinary depths, much is left to be learned about these creatures.

Summary

There are hundreds of types of squid, and we are expected to discover many more. Many of them communicate using bioluminescence. Squid range in size from tiny to massive. These are the five largest species:

SpeciesWeight
#1Colossal Squid1090lbs.
#2Giant Squid606lbs.
#3Dana Octopus Squid356lbs.
#4Robust Clubhook Squid110lbs.
#5Humboldt Squid110lbs

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Animals That Change Color- Caribbean Reef Squid
The changing of colors and patterns are the main way a Caribbean reef squid communicates with one another.
Ernie Hounshell/Shutterstock.com
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About the Author

Jesse Elop is currently a student at the University of Oregon studying biology and anthropology. He loves studying animals, particularly monkeys and apes. His favorite animals are bonobos, mandrills, and dogs, including his three-year-old pup named Rosie.

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