Scientists will soon examine an intact colossal squid for the first time in six years.

The giant animal's life cycle and diet remain a mystery but Te Papa and AUT University researchers hope the latest specimen sheds new light on the species.

Te Papa senior curator Dr Susan Waugh said the 350kg beast only emerged from the freezer today and a forklift was needed to haul it around. It was thawing out ahead of an examination expected about 11.30am tomorrow.

AUT's Dr Kat Bolstad was at the last colossal squid exam, in 2008, and was excited about taking samples from the new arrival.


She said the critter was in good condition and they hoped to keep it that way.

The squid was caught on Sanford fishing boat San Aspiring's line in Antarctic waters last summer. San Aspiring brought the squid back to New Zealand, where it was kept in a freezer.

Dr Bolstad said most colossal squid specimens came from sperm whale gut contents, or like this one, from getting hooked on Patagonian toothfish lines.

"We don't really know whether that's because the squid actually likes to eat Patagonian toothfish a lot, or because it's got a buffet of fish on a hook going past that it can't really resist."

Dr Bolstad said the squid was probably about 3.5m long from fin to tentacle.

Although the squid's octopus cousins were among the world's smartest invertebrates, squids were not so clever. Dr Bolstad said a 300kg squid only had a 20g brain.

Yet the colossal squid had the biggest eyes of any known animal. The last Te Papa specimen's eyes had a 27cm diameter.

"It may be that the eyes maximise sensitivity to any tiny little bit of light that is around."


Dr Bolstad said her personal interest in the species arose from studying squid biodiversity.

"There are lots of really interesting squid species we have around and this, obviously from a size perspective, with its hooks and some other aspects, is definitely very interesting."

Octopuses only have eight arms but squid have two tentacles as well -- and multiple hooks on all.

Dr Bolstad said squid hooks were similar in sharpness and firmness to cat claws and made of material similar to human fingernails. In total, colossal squid could have more than 100 hooks.

Colossal squid populations were unknown but Dr Bolstad said Antarctic sperm whales ate the animal in big servings -- up to a tonne-and-a-half of squid every day, with colossal squid the bulk of that.

Colossal squid had few other rivals but the southern sleeper shark, up to 4.5m long, also preyed on them.

After tomorrow's exam, the squid would spend a few weeks in a formalin solution. It may then be preserved in a different chemical and, Te Papa hoped, put on long-term display for the public.

The animal's gender was yet to be determined, as was its name. "We're open to suggestions from the public," Dr Bolstad said.