Deeper Into Jeopardy! X: Miscellaneous – $1000

Jeopardy! category: MISCELLANEOUS (17-04-2014)

$1000 clue: In the ocean the giant & colossal this are “armed” & dangerous as the largest invertebrates

Correct response

The gist: There’s a lot about these invertebrates that’s big. For example, bigger squid specimens have the largest eyes of the entire animal kingdom;  the nerve that ennervates certain portions of a squid‘s ,appropriately called the giant axon, can be up to a full millimetre wide; and the clue’s “giant” and “colossal” species may reach upwards of ten and perhaps up to 14 metres in length. Unfortunately, these animals are exceedingly rarely found by humans and even more rarely by scientists, meaning that they remain very poorly understood – the colossal squid is known from a total of 24 specimens, many of them fragmentary or too decomposed or otherwise compromised to be of much scientific use. The giant squid is better represented, but is still elusive – the first image of a living adult was taken only in 2002 near Japan. From what has been observed, however, the giant and colossal squids are no mere synonyms – the colossals are distinguished by the swivelling and three-pointed(!) hooks (warning: those uncomfortable with horror becoming reality are advised against that link) found on the ends of their tentacles.

Despite their considerable size, however, the squids are still known (in the case of the giants) and suspected (in the case of the colossals) to be victims of predation, by just about the only animals that could hope to take them on – sperm whales. Although this spectacular event has never been directly observed, sperm whale skin with scars from giant squid suckers has been found. The battle is also depicted at the Museum of Natural History in New York City, which was in turn featured in (and gave its name to) Noah Baumbach’s 2005 film The Squid and the Whale.

The epically-proportioned diorama at the Hall of Ocean Life at the American Museum of Natural History

The clue: The quoted hint “armed” is obviously a reference to tentacles, but isn’t enough to get the answer without knowing at least a bit about the squids. Surely, octopi are more readily associated with underwater arms, and a guesser would have been fooled in that case.

In Jeopardy!: “Giant squid” shows up in 14 regular clues and one FJ! clue in the J!Archive. Several mention the creature’s huge eyes, and Peter Benchley’s 1991 novel Beast (and 1996 TV movie). The “colossal squid” is only in one besides this one, and it’s called the largest invertebrate and given the largest eyes – although other clues, including that FJ!, said the same things about the giant. An inconsistency, even if the jury’s still out on it – someone let the writers know!

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