The giant squid can be found in books and in myths, but for the first time, a team of Japanese scientists has captured on film one of the most mysterious creatures of the deep-sea in its natural habitat.
Until now the only information about the behaviour of the creatures which measure up to 18 metres (59 feet) in length has been based on dead or dying squid washed up on shore or captured in commercial fishing nets.
But Tsunemi Kubodera, of the National Science Museum, and Kyoichi Mori of the Ogasawara Whale Watching Association, both in Tokyo have captured the first images of Architeuthis attacking bait 900 metres (yards) below the surface in the cold, dark waters of the North Pacific.
"Up to now, giant squids were thought to be relatively sluggish squids that stay in deep waters without moving much ... But we found out that they move around pretty actively," Kubodera told Reuters in an interview.
Kubodera said he was particularly struck by the way the giant squid -- which was captured on film in a sequence of photographs taken every 30 seconds -- tangled its prey in its elongated feeding tentacles.
"It's probably almost exactly the same as the way giant snakes wrap up their prey ... with their bodies," said Kubodera as he stood before a mounted specimen of a separate giant squid displayed at the National Science Museum in the Japanese capital.
The Japanese scientists found the squid by following sperm whales, the most effective hunters of giant squid, as they gathered to feed between September and December in the deep waters off the coast of the Ogasawara Islands in the North Pacific.
Giant squid have long attracted human fascination, appearing in myths of the ancient Greeks, as well as Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." Scientific interest in the animals has surged in recent years as more specimens have been caught in commercial fishing nets or found washed up on shores.