Japanese scientists have photographed a live giant squid in the wild for the first time, ending an age-old quest to document one of the most mysterious creatures of the deep sea.
The team led by Tsunemi Kubodera, from the National Science Museum in Tokyo, tracked the 26-foot-long Architeuthis as it attacked prey at a depth of 3,000 feet off the coast of Japan's Bonin islands.
"We believe this is the first time a grown giant squid has been captured on camera in its natural habitat," said Kyoichi Mori, a marine researcher who co-authored an article on the finding in Wednesday's issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.
The camera was operated by remote control during research in the fall of 2004, capping a three-year search for the squid around the Bonin islands, 1,000 kilometers (670 miles) south of Tokyo, Mori told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The feat was praised by researchers as an important milestone in observation of the enormous creatures, which appeared in the writings of the ancient Greeks as well as Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."
"It's the holy grail of deep sea animals," said Jim Barry, a marine biologist at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California who has searched for giant squid without luck. "It's one that we have never seen alive, and now someone has video of one."
New Zealand's leading authority on giant squid, marine biologist Steve O'Shea, hailed the Japanese team's feat, although he said the photographs in themselves would probably not advance knowledge about the animals much.
"Our reaction is one of tremendous relief that the so-called ... race is over ... because the animal has consumed the last eight or nine years of my life," he said. O'Shea added that Kubodera's determination in tracking down the animal "is truly commendable. I think it is fantastic."
Mori said the squid, which was purplish red like smaller squid, attacked its quarry aggressively.
"Contrary to belief that the giant squid is relatively inactive, the squid we captured on film actively used its enormous tentacles to go after prey," Mori said