Squids and Octopus's
Posted 11/9/08 , edited 11/9/08

“The Story for Squid"

Texts and photography by Michael AW

"One would think the body was adorned with a diadem of brilliant gems. The middle organs of the eye shone with ultramarine blue, the lateral ones with a pearly sheen. Those toward the front of the lower surface of the body gave out a ruby red light, while those behind were snow white or pearly, except the median one, which was sky blue..."

Carl Chun

Have you ever heard the story about two sisters Diana and Rebecca? Rebecca always seemed to lure all the attention, while Diana, equally as quick witted, demure and definitely more attractive is often ignored. Often a 'Tom Cruise', would cunningly excuse himself in the midst of talking with Diana, when Rebecca walked into the room. Can you imagine that if this kind of experience happened to you on a regular basis, that you might somehow fail to be amused.

Do not get me wrong, I adore dolphins and whales, but I have often wondered about the deal between 'Free Willy' and 'Jaws'. One year after the former, over five million dollars was raised to rehabilitate Keiko, the real life Killer whale, yet almost thirty years after 'Jaws', we are still out there dissipating populations of sharks.

When dolphins were shown on television drowning in tuna nets, the public rallied. Hundreds of thousands of sharks also die in tuna nets and unscrupulous fishing operations are known to simply cuts off thousands of sharks fins and throw the live animal back to the sea to die. But there are no public outcries, no boycott against Hong Kong or Taiwan to save sharks. There are no 'Save the Sharks' foundations.

It seems that in this world being beautifully colored is not sufficient to get you the right to recognition; you have to be big, bad or cute. Squids for example, are cousins with the octopus, cuttlefish and nautilus belonging to the scientific classification of Cephalopoda, (derived from two Greek words, 'kephal' meaning head and 'podas', foot) gets little mention and certainly no media attention.

Foe example, the submarine in the movie '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’, is named Nautilus and in Victor Hugo 1866 novel, 'Les Travail-leur de la Mer', the gripping account of a wrestle to death dual was with an octopus. There are also Nautilus Dive Centres, Nautilus Seafood, Nautilus Security, Octopus Pool Cleaner, Octopus Garden, even Octopus Removal, but there is nothing, absolutely nothing about squid or cuttlefish; I have checked the 1995 Yellow Pages, there are neither Squid Travels nor Squids Plumbing service. Squids get no respect; squids have not made headlines or the cover of Life magazine.

In fact, many people only associations with squids are of the chewy munchies called 'Calamari'. Some people refer to them as the M & M's of the ocean - you can't just eat one and they melt in your mouth, not in your hand. So if you were perceived to be small, and a little odd, the world would simply not give a damn about you. Only a handful of us know that squids, cuttlefish and octopus are also cousins to all 'shellfishes' like oysters, in the marine phylum of Mollusca.

There are about four hundred species of squid living in the world's ocean, from the Arctic, throughout the tropical seas to the Antarctic and they inhabit the pelagic zone to dark oceanic trenches of fourteen thousand feet (4242m). Squids have plenty of attitude as well as intelligence; they do not wish to be considered amongst the ordinary folks, whose lives are more or less, mundane, limited to the floor of the sea. Exterior shells are heavy and cumbrous to bob around the open ocean. Sex in mid-water would be impossible!

Squids just prefer a body of wrap around tubular muscles, surrounding their organs and a shell, albeit an aerodynamic shaped, thin, horny internal structure known as a pen or gladius. With little fins on their dainty side, they are able to hover, cruise and take off like a jet, making them the fastest swimming invertebrates; some have been reported to leap out of water attaining an incredible speed of over 16 miles per hour (26 kms/h) in the air for a distance of fifty feet (15.2m). Thats incredible. Jet propulsion is an ancient technology for squids. Squid are powered by drawing water through their bodies, then contracting a series of muscles which tightly squirts water out of a narrow siphon. The siphon acts like a jet exhaust, and can be directed both anteriorly and posteriorly for either forward or backward movement. The fastest movement being to propel backward to escape from predator.

Squids also have another secret weapon up their tubular sleeve, a large ink sac that contains a fluid with black sepio-melanin pigment, the same substance that turns our skin dark. When a squid is alarmed or cornered, the ink is ejected and a smoke screen shoots in one direction and the squid hightails in another. It is thought that the ink is likely to contain irritating substances to anesthetize potential predators. Modern day military commanders have learned well from this pre-historic warrior of 200 million years.

We are now even closer to squids - Dr Jin'ichi Sasaki of Hirosaki University in northern Japan has discovered that an ingredient in squids ink may be effective in fighting cancer. He has derived a mixture of conjugated glucide from squids ink that works by activating the body’s macrophages (a kind of white blood cell) to increase immune response to tumor cells.

Natures has its way with cruel jokes; the large central nerve of squid’s nervous system - the Axon, is about the size of a pin, about 100 times larger in diameter than a human, making Squids ideal research material. We might have more in common with squids than we think - squids have the most developed visionary skill among marine invertebrates. (see fig 1) Their binocular fusion is near human standard with excellent depth and ground perception. However, their optometrical technique is difference from us; an image is not reflected on their retina but instead they record, interpret patterns, density and color variation of a moving object to their nervous system, permitting recognition of complex forms. When I look into their eyes, I become conscious that I am being process, as friend or foe or simply a curiosity or benign amusement in their mind.

Squids language is a visual reality, they have the ability to rapidly change pattern and colors, as fast as two third of a second. Observations by Dr. Hanlon of University of Texas on the tropical arrow squid Loligo ple) report that the squid has a repertoire of at least sixteen different patterns- from stripes, splotches, rings, spots, lateral flame, lateral blush to downright naughty "accentuated testis". Changes in pattern are therefore used in communication between individuals; when male arrow squids fight with each other, they often display a number of patterns not found in females. So when you see squids changing their body patterns in front of you, they might just be telling each other- "Eek ! another bubble blowing weirdo."

Last October, I was photographing a juvenile barracuda, drifting near the surface in the Sulawesi sea. Whilst turning away to adjust the strobe setting, a pulsating white mass emerged from behind my right shoulder, extending its tentacles to snatch the juicy morsel right in front of me. This intelligent being had used me as a shelter for the ambush, a process called "shadow stalking". Squids have eight short arms lined with suckers and two longer prehensile tentacles, with suckers only on its tips.

When Squids are out stalking, their tentacles uncoil, and once close enough the tentacles lash out like a whip-snap, as fast as a third of a second to grab their prey. Retrieving inward, the arms hold the food in place for its very powerful parrot-liked beak. The upper mandible closes within the lower, so that sharp edges of each cut obliquely, like a pair of scissors. It bites the entire fish head off first, followed by little chunks, until the guts and tails remain, and these are consider unfit for a squid culinary pursuit limited to fishes, krills and yes -other squids too! Stephen King and Indianna Jones will be impressed.

One night against a velvet black sky, I watched the greatest ‘light show’ on earth, better than forth of July, staged by Squids- bet it did not cost half a million dollars to produce too! Two UFOs suddenly zoom into view and began to flash, its colour vibrating, shimmering almost iridescent. All right I am exaggerating, silly me, just two squids performing their love dance in front of me.

Faster than the Intel Pentium DUO, squids can change colour in less than two third of a second to camouflage, to reflect emotions, including alarm, aggression, defences and sexual signals. Though a red and orange signal is usually observed by approaching diver, no one has yet successfully deciphered squid’s language. The cool thing about this animal who uses its chameleon ability to camouflage itself with the environment, it is really color blind but their predators (such as us and fishes) that do see colour are warned off or deceived.

Colour changes are achieved by three layers of coloured cell structures called chromatophores which are filled with colour pigment- bright yellow near the surface, an orange layer in between a dark base, enabling the play of colour like on a black pearl. The chromatophores are miniature plastic bags that are expanded by radial muscles under a dual nervous system control, local and central. When contracted, a pattern of fine stripping is seen, while expansion spread out all layers of chromatophores, colouring the squids like a rainbow.

Embedded above and below the chromatophores are other kinds of cell containing laminar crystal, called iridocytes. These microscopic mirrors are like mirrored reflectors, so when light falls on them through the chromatophores, there is the play of colors enhancing the chromatophores. As the cells expand and contract, a metamorphosis of colored lights can be seen spreading from their head across their body. This ‘light show’ is controlled to mastery perfection by the most advanced neurological system known to man, making squids' color change and camouflage ability, unrivalled in the animal kingdom.

Once I was emerging from an evening dive when I found some ‘squidky’ affairs. Already attached 20 feet off the bottom on a mooring line, is a cluster of white capsules, apparently just deposited by the pair of squids hovering close by. The two were engaging in some strange dance, disengaging and embracing into each other arms. I spent the next three nights watching and photographing the spawning display of these graceful intelligencia of the sea. Squids are separately sexed, meaning there are boy and girl squids. One of the coolest things about male squids is that they actually package their sperms (usually a few million in a pack) in tiny little convenient packets called spermatophores, for use when required. He can either deposit them in a modern day 'sperm bank' or during copulation, he simply reach into his 'coat pocket' with a modified arm called hectocotalysed, and pull out a packet and insert it into the female body through her siphon. I wonder if there are squids selling spermatophore at the ‘corner shop'!

The sperm packet 'explodes' and fined their way to the females’ ovaries. Yes, sort of telepathic orgasm for the male. The female then produces eggs, fertilise them and pack them into elongated capsules. She then proceeds to attach them with adhesive stalks (up to 300 stalks) to a fix structure near the bottom, with lots of water movement or in my observation on the mooring line in mid water. They are lousy mothers, leaving almost immediately when the clandestine affair is over.

Six days later, I could make out little eyes of developing young in the translucent capsules. When they hatch, they are little enchanting replicas of the adults, capable of squirting ink when threatened changing colors and patterns. Iridescence eyes pulsate across a shimmering green and orange body of brown dots. Though some scientists still believe that the life span for an average squid is between one - three years, George Jackson of James Cook University, has a way of describing a squids life - "life's short, play hard". From his study of squids statolith rings, (a squid's calender, carried in its head recording age, growth rate and hatchling date), he has not found any tropical squids older than 200 days! Well, a colourful life, but a little short.

While most marine animals vary in size within the family, I reckoned that the squid has the greatest variation. I have photographed an adult dumpling squid (possibly Euprymna sp.), a bottom dwelling specie measuring only half an inch (1 cm), a microscopic comparison to the deep water, Architeuthis, the world's biggest squid, reliably one measured (on a beach off course) nearly 60ft (18m) long. This easily puts Squids in the same league if not bigger than whale sharks and whales. I have been told the Archteuthis is rather a slow moving animal, known to come up to the planktonic zone to feed at night. I have spent a few lonely nights out there, but have yet to photograph one of these giants.

Hence squids are capable of some pretty amazing feats; from being the world's master of disguise, the original inventor of jet propulsion travel, maker of sperm packs, one of the world's biggest animals to throwing the first smoke screen and now an aid in our cancer research programs - Squids deserve better recognition and popular attention. As long as squids remain an important food source, like tunas, their numbers and survival of their species are threatened. Not exactly on the cover of Times or Life, but in year 2000 my picture of a squid won the BBC Wild Life competition. A little fame for the little squid at last.
Posted 11/9/08 , edited 11/9/08
huuh wut?? so much riting??

they both taste nice
Posted 11/9/08 , edited 11/9/08

iianthony wrote:

huuh wut?? so much riting??

they both taste nice

Posted 11/9/08 , edited 11/9/08
err.. sry tl;dr. Seriously though, why?
Posted 11/9/08 , edited 11/9/08

Deathguitar wrote:

“The Story for Squid"

Ok I am locking your thread for the following reasons:

1.Yes there are differences in squid and octopus. If you look at pictures of them you will see what they are. If you want to know more in detail then just search for both on wiki or google. I doubt there would be any squid/octopus experts on CR who can give you a sensible enough answer.

2. That was a mass of text in your first post. a) No one is going to read all of that and b) It has no relevance to your supposed thread topic. The entire article is about why squids should have a more important status and not about comparing it with octopuses. I have no idea why you even posted it.


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