|Name Meaning||“Striking Squid”||Height||N/A|
|Pronunciation||Too-so-te-ew-fiss||Length||8-11 meters (25-35 feet)|
|Era||Mesozoic – Cretaceous||Weight||N/A – 1 ton is debated.|
|Classification||Cephalodo, Octopoda, Muensterellidae||Location||North America|
Tusoteuthis is an extinct genus of giant squid that lived in the prehistoric seas of North America during the Cretaceous Period.
This ancient cephalopod was about the same size as modern giant squids.
Like modern squids, the body of the Tusoteuthis lacked an exoskeleton.
Consequently, the only rigid structure in its body, known as the pen or gladius, was the only part of it preserved in the fossil record.
Only one poorly preserved specimen has been identified and described so far.
Even though it was probably one of the largest squids to have ever swam in the world’s oceans, the fragmentary nature of this Tusoteuthis fossil makes it difficult to determine some of its attributes.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the facts that we currently know about the Tusoteuthis and how it lived.
Tusoteuthis is often compared to the modern giant squid or the colossal squid—the two largest species of squid still living today.
Unfortunately, very little is known about these squids as well because they live in deep-sea habitats and are rarely seen.
The only part of the Tusoteuthis discovered so far is the hard bone-like support structure known as the gladius.
This chitinous structure functions like a sort of internal skeleton, providing structural support for the squid’s muscular body.
Based on the length of the gladius, the maximum size of the Tusoteuthis with its tentacles stretched out has been estimated to be about 25 to 35 feet (8 to 11 meters).
This size estimate makes it slightly smaller than the giant squid, with a maximum size of about 39 to 43 feet (12 to 13 meters).
The gladius supported a muscular body with presumably eight to ten arms or tentacles lined with suckers.
The head section of this cephalopod’s body was also characterized by large eyes and a sharp beak.
Habitat and Distribution
Tusoteuthis lived during the Late Cretaceous Period, approximately 85 to 70 million years ago.
It lived in an ancient inland seaway known as the Western Interior Seaway that covered most of North America during the Cretaceous Period.
The only confirmed fossil of the Tusoteuthis was found in Kansas.
However, a few other unconfirmed remains are also known from other parts of America, such as North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming.
This suggests that the ancient cephalopod had a vast geographic range.
Tusoteuthis was most likely a pelagic cephalopod.
This means it lived in the open ocean.
However, it may have also ventured into shallower waters to feed and reproduce.
The exact preferred habitat of this squid is unknown, but it is likely to have lived in areas where there was a plentiful supply of food.
Behavior and Diet
Tusoteuthis was most likely a fast swimmer.
It moved via jet propulsion, similar to how modern squids move today.
This involves expelling water through a siphon on the lower part of its body to propel itself.
Tusoteuthis had a flexible body, which meant it could turn quickly and swim backward as well.
Very little is known about the lifestyle of this squid.
But the modern giant squid is a deep-water, solitary predator.
The Tusoteuthis may have lived like this as well.
There is no evidence that it formed social groups or lived in aggregation with other squids.
Tusoteuthis was most likely an active predator.
Its tentacles were lined with suckers which were used to grab and hold prey.
It likely preyed on marine life in the Western Interior Seaway, such as fish and cephalopods.
This giant squid likely obtained its food by hunting and ambushing its prey.
The life cycle of Tusoteuthis is not well-known, but if it’s similar to that of modern squids, then this giant prehistoric squid would have reproduced sexually.
After mating, females laid eggs in a jelly-like mass that would eventually hatch into larvae.
Tusoteuthis was most likely a fast-growing animal, reaching maturity within a few years.
The exact lifespan is unknown, but it probably lived for several years.
Evolution and History
The evolutionary history of Tusoteuthis is not well-known.
However, experts think it may have been closely related to Vampyroteuthis (also known as vampire squid).
Cephalopods, in general, have a long geologic history that dates back to the Paleozoic Era.
These shell-less mollusks likely evolved from shelled ancestors.
In fact, some primitive cephalopods, such as Plectronoceras and nautilus, have had shells too.
Shell-less cephalopods such as squids and octopuses evolved about 160 to 100 million years ago, during a period known as the Mesozoic Marine Revolution.
This was a time of great change in the marine environment, characterized by a biological arms race between predators and prey species.
Squids ditched their external skeleton for a reduced internal skeleton as an adaptation for escaping predators.
Losing their shells made it easier to compress their bodies and jet away from predators faster than their ancestors.
Squids continued to diversify during the Cretaceous Period, and larger forms like the Tusoteuthis emerged during this period.
Interactions With Other Species
Tusoteuthis was likely one of the largest cephalopods of the Cretaceous seas.
Experts think it may have been a top predator in the ancient seas, preying on fish and other marine animals.
A combination of its large size, powerful arms, and sharp beak made it well-suited for hunting large prey.
Tusoteuthis itself was prey to larger animals in its ecosystem.
At least one instance of this squid being attacked by a predator is preserved in the fossil record.
A fossil of an ancient predatory fish, Cimolichthys nepaholica, was once discovered with the gladius of a Tusoteuthis in its throat.
Some part of the squid’s gladius was in the fish’s stomach region, while its mouth was left open, suggesting that the rest of the cephalopod’s body was still in its mouth when the fish died.
Experts think the head and tentacles of the Tusoteuthis may have blocked the gills of this fish, suffocating it before it could swallow.
Tusoteuthis, like its living relative, is an enigmatic cephalopod.
So far, we have been able to learn very little about this squid due to the incomplete nature of its fossils.
Tusoteuthis is a worthy contender for the largest squid to have ever lived, making it quite a fascinating species to study.
Unfortunately, we’ll probably never know how big this giant squid was unless additional fossils turn up somehow.
Tusoteuthis and other massive squids have captivated the imagination of people of all ages.
Experts think sightings of these giant squids may have inspired stories of the Kraken, the famous sea monster from Norwegian mythology.
Although these folklores probably referred to the living giant squid, like the Architeuthis and the colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis), the thought of a massive squid that may have exceeded them in size is definitely fascinating.
Currently, the Tusoteuthis is not very relevant to science due to the fragmentary nature of its fossils.
But its discovery as both a predator and prey in the ancient Western Iinterior Seaway contributes to our understanding of this prehistoric environment and the ecological interactions that took place in it.
Tusoteuthis was a giant squid that lived in the ancient seas about 85 million years ago.
This tentacled cephalopod is one of the largest squids ever discovered.
Due to its massive size, it is often compared to modern relatives such as the giant squid and colossal squid.
Although only fragmentary remains are known, Tusoteuthis was most likely an important species in its ecosystem.
It was an active predator that preyed on fish, cephalopods, marine reptiles, and other small animals.
The fossil evidence also shows that the Tusoteuthis was preyed on by marine reptiles and predatory fish in its ecosystem, making it both an important predator and a prey.
Jerry Young is a self-proclaimed prehistoric animal nerd. He has been fascinated with these ancient creatures for as long as he can remember, and his passion for them continues to this day. With his extensive knowledge and love for prehistoric animals, he is the perfect fit for Gage Beasley Prehistoric.