SCIENCE
09/18/2014 04:10 am ET Updated Sep 18, 2014

Colossal Squid Dissected In New Zealand, Broadcast Live Online

It's a creature so frightening that it may have inspired ancient legends such as the kraken, and so rare that only two intact adult specimens have ever been found. And on Tuesday, viewers around the world got to see the colossal squid like never before when scientists dissected one in a live webcast.

"This is essentially an intact specimen, which is almost an unparalleled opportunity for us to examine," Kat Bolstad, squid scientist from the Auckland University of Technology and leader of the dissection, told the Associated Press. "This is a spectacular opportunity."

Bolstad told AFP that the exam revealed the squid to be a female, still carrying eggs. Researchers also got an up-close look the eyes, which are nearly 14 inches in diameter.

"They have very large and very delicate eyes because they live in the deep sea," she told the news agency. "It's very rare to see an eye in good condition at all."

They also cut out and removed the squid's beak, and had a look at its three hearts.

The 11-foot-long, 770-pound colossal squid -- a relative of the longer, but lighter, giant squid -- was found in waters off Antarctica in December 2013 by Captain John Bennett and his crew, who had previously caught an even larger specimen.

"It was partly alive, it was still hanging onto the fish," he told AP. "Just a big bulk in the water. They're huge, and the mantle's all filled with water. It's quite an awesome sight."

The creature was placed in frozen storage at Te Papa museum in Wellington, which has Capt. Bennett's previous squid on display, then defrosted before the dissection.

The event turned out to be an online hit, with 142,000 people from 180 countries tuning in.

Those interested in watching the entire three and a half hour dissection can check it out in the video posted below (the broadcast starts at about 7 minutes in). And for details on just what you're looking at as they cut it open, read the Te Papa museum's explanation of colossal squid anatomy.

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