My source is a new paper in the American Malacological Bulletin* called "Unanswered Questions About the Giant Squid Architeuthis (Architeuthidae) Illustrate Our Incomplete Knowledge of Coleoid Cephalopods," in which authors Clyde Roper and Liz Shea make some delicious calculations:
If the estimated 360,000 sperm whales remaining in the world’s oceans eat one giant squid per month, then the giant squid population consumed must be over 4.3 million individuals per year. If the number is one per week, then the consumed population would be over 18.7 million individuals consumed per year. Estimates based on actual samples taken from sperm whale stomachs are much larger still. Clarke (1980) suggested that approximately 1% of the 700–800 squids a female sperm whale eats each day and the 300–400 squids a male eats each day are Architeuthis specimens. If true, that yields the astonishing number of over 3.6 million giant squids consumed per day, and a yearly total over 131 million giant squids. [emphasis mine]That means this . . .
(Display @ Museum of Natural History, New York City, photo by Mike Goren)
. . . could be happening more than three million times a day, or more than forty times a second. Consider. It's possible that, in the time it takes you to swallow one sip of water, forty formidable sperm whales around the world have slurped down forty unfortunate giant squid.
And now forty different whales have eaten forty different squid.
And now it's happened again.
And . . .
If that doesn't blow your mind, you may not have a mind to be blown.
Clyde F. E. Roper and Elizabeth K. Shea (2013). Unanswered Questions About the Giant Squid Architeuthis (Architeuthidae)Illustrate Our Incomplete Knowledge of Coleoid Cephalopods American Malacological Bulletin, 31 (1), 109-122 DOI: 006.031.0104
* Sadly, the article isn't open access, although
BioOne sees sustainable scholarly publishing as an inherently collaborative enterprise connecting authors, nonprofit publishers, academic institutions, research libraries, and research funders in the common goal of maximizing access to critical research.I appreciate that BioOne and the American Malacological Society are nonprofits, and I'd be happier to give my money to them than to Elsevier, but it's still hard to stomach a $10 fee for 5 days' access. I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the article from a wonderful librarian at a subscribing institution.