Thanksgiving is a time for family, football—and food. Studies have suggested that the average American gains anywhere from 1 to 7 pounds during the holiday season, and of course, in some families, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without a traditional eating competition. But humans aren’t the only animals with huge appetites…
The giant squid is the largest invertebrate on Earth and a creature of legend. Inhabiting the murky depths of the ocean, the giant squid is glimpsed so rarely by humans that almost all known encounters have been with animals that died of natural causes and were eventually recovered by fishermen or washed up onto a beach. The Invertebrate Zoology (IZ) department of the National Museum of Natural History has one such specimen in its collection. IZ is also home to giant squid expert Clyde Roper.
When scientists recover a deceased giant squid, they analyze its gut contents to learn about its lifestyle. For example, it’s well known that giant squid consume deepsea fish, and even other giant squid. But what about whales? Many sperm whales have been observed with sucker scars on their bodies. Now, sperm whales are known to eat giant squid, based on recovered gut contents, but whale tissue has never been found inside a giant squid’s stomach. Still, no one has ever observed a giant squid tousling with a sperm whale, so scientists can’t rule out that in some instances, the squid might be attacking the whale first. Talk about having “a whale” of an appetite!
Weighing in at 200 tons, the blue whale is the largest animal on Earth—and it also has the largest appetite. How big is a blue whale’s appetite? One blue whale can eat as much as 4 tons of seafood per day. In particular, blue whales eat krill, tiny shrimp-like crustaceans. However, because the blue whale is so large, it’s easily spotted from a distance, giving even tiny krill the chance to try to swim away. Scientists believe that blue whales have evolved a twisting feeding behavior as a result, to catch the tiny krill off guard. In this video, you can watch the blue whale twist its swimming orientation as it closes in on tiny swimming krill.
by Liz Boatman