People began to share the photo of the supposed cephalopod on Facebook and Twitter, and thus the fake giant came to life.
Staff at the rumor-research website snopes.com did a drive-by of the beach in Santa Monica and reported no signs of the giant squid. “Nor did any of the many local news outlets cover any such topic,” they write.
David Emery writes on About.com that the giant squid in the photograph is actually a 30-foot-long (9-meter-long) giant squid that washed ashore in Spain in October 2013.
The fake photo combined a blown-up image of that squid and a picture of people standing on a beach.
“From a pure photographic standpoint, what stands out to me as a red flag is the squid’s shadow on the left—actually all of its shadows,” said Sherry Brukbacher, news photo editor at National Geographic. “This makes me question the image immediately.”
“It’s more likely the animal’s body would be flush with the ground and not sticking up like that, unless it was hardened and stiff,” she said. “Also, all the edges of the squid are uniformly smooth—unnaturally so.”
Giant squid are large enough to battle sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus)—sometimes the squid win, and sometimes they end up in the belly of a beast. (See “Rare Photos: Giant Squid Eaten by Sperm Whale.”)
But the largest giant squid ever recorded by scientists measured nearly 43 feet (12 meters) long, according to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History website.
That’s nowhere close to the supposed 160-foot (49-meter) length of the giant squid that’s taken over the Internet.