Yup, they found a giant squid. And this is exactly why I get snarlish about people referring to Humboldt squid as giant squid. If you cry "giant!" every time Humboldts appear, then when you get a real Architeuthis, people will think, "What's the big deal about finding one giant squid in the Gulf of Mexico? There are swarms of them off Washington!"

Anyway, back in July, a standard trawl on a NOAA research cruise hauled in a giant squid--much to everyone's excitement, I'm sure. Curiously, NOAA waited two months before issuing a press release. (I don't really know why, probably there's a perfectly good reason.) Reuters wrote it up right away, and from there it hit the newspapers and blogs.

My favorite
headlines so far:
Holy Architeuthis! Giant Squid Caught Off La*
Federal Scientists Capture, Take Horrible Photo of, Giant Squid!

My favorite unsourced scientific assertion: "The [squid] had been alive but died as it was being brought to the surface because the squid cannot survive such quick changes in water depth."

Generally, squid are not nearly as sensitive as fish or people are to the pressure changes associated with changing water depth. That's because their bodies don't have any gas pockets. Squid are mostly water, and water is virtually incompressible. Of course, humans and fish are mostly water too--with the critical addition of gas-containing sinuses (humans) and swim bladders (fish). It's the air in those pockets that compresses or expands as we go down or up, causing pain and sometimes death.

So, I doubt that pressure change was the immediate cause of the squid's death. But that doesn't mean the article's assertion is completely wrong, because quick changes in water depth are associated with quick changes in temperature, which might be enough to knock out a giant squid. We don't have the laboratory studies to be able to say for sure.

Or, there might be a simple mechanical explanation for its death: being dragged through the water in a net. Certainly this squid is in good condition compared to half-digested remains from whale stomachs, which is what giant squid scientists usually have to work with, but look at how roughed up it is! That is some serious rope burn.

*Louisiana, for anyone who's as slow as I am at recognizing state abbreviations.