Ocean of Hope

First Video Filmed of Giant Squid in the Ocean

First giant squid filmed in deep sea: photo by Edie Widder/Discovery Channel

I have been called by many names, including sea monster, kraken, calamari, and dinner. I am a giant squid (Architeuthis spp.). I am a highly intelligent cephalopod. My cousins include the octopus, cuttlefish, and chambered nautilus.

Despite my ancestors washing up on shore or getting caught in fishing nets, we have managed to stay elusive to humans. Truthfully it hasn’t been that hard, as humans have explored less than 5 percent of the oceans. Most of the ocean is the pitch dark deep sea in which no sunlight penetrates. That is where I live.

No human had ever filmed a giant squid alive deep in the ocean until recently. They filmed one of my colleagues using a special light that neither humans nor squid can detect, and created a special lure. I’m sure my fellow squid knew that someone was around though. There are always those who love to hog the spotlight in every species!

Here are my impressive stats:

1. My eyes are the size of dinner plates, and are the largest eyes of any animal on earth.

2. Giant squid can grow to lengths of 43-55 feet (13-16.8 meters) measuring from the top of our heads to the tip of our tentacles.

3. Unlike octopus, we have 8 arms plus 2 long feeding tentacles.

4. We have razor sharp rings on all our suckers (those are what leave scars on sperm whales).

5. Giant squid actually do sometime win in epic battles with sperm whales!

6. We are found in all the world’s oceans.

7. Giant squid are quite intelligent.

My octopus cousins are considered the most intelligent invertebrate, but their benthic (living on the bottom) nature makes them easy (and fun!) to keep in captivity. My smaller squid relatives are much harder to keep alive in tanks. Squid may seem less intelligent, but we are really just studied less by humans.

The giant squid footage airs in a documentary that will be broadcast in the US on January 27 on the Discovery Channel. Check your local listings for times.

Vampire Squid: I’m no vampire, and I’m not even a squid!

”vampire
Vampire Squid (photo by MBARI)

My scientific name is Vampyroteuthis infernalis, which translates to “vampire squid from hell.” Too bad I’m not actually a squid or even an octopus, even though I have characteristics of both. I’m not a vampire either as I don’t suck blood! I do have a vampire-like cloak that I can wrap myself in (see MBARI video, it’s really cool!). As for being from hell, I dare you to live in pitch black darkness at 2000 feet deep (610m) 24/7 and not consider it hell! Just kidding, I am perfectly adapted to life in the deep sea, as my species has been around for millions of years. I am still a cephalopod, a group that includes octopuses, (true) squid, cuttlefish, and nautiluses.

I have been in the news lately because a study found that I eat feces and corpses. They are some of the components of marine snow, the organic bits and pieces that drift down from the surface to the bottom of the ocean. Maybe humans would not eat those things, but food is scarce in the deep sea. I’m constantly on the move, and I trap food in long, sticky, and retractable lines that I cast out from my body. My one inch (2.5cm) wide azure eyes are perfectly adapted for seeing in low, or no, light. I also have dark blue bioluminescent photophores (lights) all over my body. Bioluminescence (i.e. glow-in-the-dark light) is the only source of light in the deep sea.

So like octopuses I have 8 arms, but I don’t have ink sacs. Instead my “ink” is a mucus ball comprised of bioluminescent lights. It works for me when I feel threatened, and besides, black ink in the black deep sea wouldn’t do me much good.

I hope you can appreciate me now that you know I am more than just a feces eating scavenger, as I am one cool and wholly unique species!

Meet Bolt, a Humboldt or Jumbo Squid

”Humboldt
Bolt the Humboldt or Jumbo Squid (photo by Brian Skerry)

In honor of October 10, Squid and Cuttlefish Day during Cephalopod Awareness Days, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Bolt. I am a Humboldt squid, or jumbo squid. It always amuses me that humans are so frightened of sharks, when any SCUBA diver who has dove with us at night during a feeding frenzy knows that we are among the most dangerous animals in the ocean!

Just like sharks once they smell blood in the water, I also revert to my baser instincts when I am feeding. First I grab my prey with my two longest tentacles, and then I pierce it with the sharp teeth that are all over my suction cups. I use my suckers like an assembly line to bring the prey to my beak, and then chomp! I bite with my beak and chew with my radula. Like sharks, we will release you if you’re not tasty, but we can’t guarantee that the bite won’t cause damage! I like to eat animals smaller than me, including fish, crustaceans, other cephalopods (including other squid), and copepods. Other squids in large shoals, of up to 1,200 individuals, can take down larger prey (including humans…)

So we Humboldt squid are not nasty all the time, and it is just our mouth and sharp suckers that humans are afraid of. Or maybe our size, as we can grow up to 6 feet long (2m), and weigh over 100 pounds (45kg). Otherwise, come visit us when we are not in a feeding frenzy, as we are very curious about our surroundings, and that includes human intruders, I mean divers…

Did you know that I can dart through the ocean at speeds up to 15 miles per hour (24 km/hr)? I can do that thanks to my handy dandy multi-tasking siphon. It can shoot out water for propulsion, get rid of waste from my body, help me breathe, and squirt ink when I feel threatened.

Humans are becoming concerned that Humboldt squid are beginning to take over the oceans. ‘Tis not our fault, but humans’ for altering the ocean environment in our favor. Humans are fishing out too many large predators like tuna, swordfish, and sharks. We are eating what those overfished animals used to eat, and have been able to expand our territory to ask far south as Chile, and as far north as Alaska in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. So I hope humans continue to like calamari (just don’t eat me, thanks), as we squid may soon take over all the oceans…

You can help by eating only sustainably caught fish. Download the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch App today!

Ollie the Octopus on International Cephalopod Awareness Days and the State of the Oceans

Ollie the Octopus
Ollie the Octopus (photo by Cherilyn Chin)

Wow, it’s already International Cephalopod Awareness Days again! (see my post from last year’s Octopus Day about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Here are the Cephalopod Awareness Days we are celebrating: October 8 is Octopus Day (my favorite!), October 9 is (Chambered) Nautilus Day, October 10 is Squid and Cuttlefish Day, October 11 is Myths and Legends, and October 12 is Fossils and Extinct Species (Vampire Squid fit here as “living fossils”, they have been in the news lately, perhaps you have heard that they eat feces and corpses in the deep sea?)

In honor of Octopus Day, I thought I would go over the “State of the Oceans.” Since I’m no orator (I have no vocal cords), you’ll have to settle for my thoughts.

Right now there are 3 major issues facing the ocean today:

1. Global Warming
2. Pollution
3. Overfishing

Whether or not you believe global warming is currently happening, or that it is humans that are causing it, the effects of global warming have been shown over geologic time (i.e. longer than humans have inhabited the earth). Global warming causes seawater temperatures to rise, which can have devastating effects on all wildlife, especially on corals. For more on coral bleaching see my last post.

Due to global warming, sea level rises faster than usual due to the melting of the polar ice caps. Ocean acidification occurs because of all the extra carbon dioxide that the ocean absorbs, and it causes seawater to become more acidic (like soda or orange juice). It mainly affects those animals that have calcium carbonate skeletons, especially the plankton at the bottom of the food chain. For more on that read Terry the Pteropod’s post on ocean acidification.

Pollution comes in many forms, including chemical (like fertilizer runoff and industrial waste), and physical (like garbage or silt). Garbage is the most insidious form of pollution in the oceans. It consists mainly of plastic in all shapes and forms. Plastic never biodegrades, and all the plastic that has ever been produced is still around today (unless it was incinerated). For more, read my previous post on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Overfishing is happening all around the world in all the world’s oceans. Every single country that fishes is catching more fish than can be replaced by the birth rate of new fish. This means that most marine animals eaten as seafood are being fished unsustainably! For more information on overfishing, please watch the documentary The End of the Line.

Once again, I’m out of time. I’ll be back soon to discuss more pressing ocean issues. Please hug a cephalopod today! Or at least abstain from eating us or buying our shells (see Shelley the chambered nautilus’ post), thank you!!

Meet Shelley the Chambered Nautilus

Chambered Nautilus
Chambered Nautilus (photo by John White)

Sigh, I get no respect unless I am dead and my shell is mounted on a human’s wall. My name is Shelley, and I am a chambered nautilus. I am so unlike my sexy and charismatic cephalopod cousins. You have probably heard of them because you eat them! There is the intelligent and camouflage master called the octopus, the swiftly darting and flashing squid (also known as calamari), and the hovering aliens known as cuttlefish. Well, maybe you have not heard of a cuttlefish, but any bird owner is familiar with their cuttlebone, which is used by birds to sharpen their beaks. Once you learn about their puppy-like behavior and the lightning quick manner in which they use their two front tentacles to nab prey, I am sure you will fall in love with them!

Unfortunately I fall into the category of “things that go bump in the night.” I emerge like a vampire from the pitch black depth of 2000 feet (610 meters) to the slightly less pitch dark depth of 328 feet (100 meters) at night to feed.

I look like an upside down snail (another creature that does not get much respect unless it is cooked on a plate in front of a human!) with thin tentacles waving every which way. My shell, which is highly sought after by human collectors, makes me the evolutionary link between the other shell-less cephalopods and the rest of the animal kingdom. As a chambered nautilus I should be flattered by that, but it just makes me feel like a freak in comparison!

But I do love my shell! My many internal shell chambers (hence the “chamber” in my name) are lined with this beautiful pearlescent sheen, and they are what make me so appealing to humans when my shell is sliced in half and used as a decoration. I grow more chambers as I get older and grow larger. These chambers are essential to my well being as I force air in and out of them so I can rise and fall in the water column. I am like a miniature submarine that controls its buoyancy by capturing and releasing water.

I would love to dazzle you with the chambered nautilus’ population numbers across all the oceans, but not only do I not know, but humans have no idea either! They do not even have an estimate. Humans can count imported shells, but like many species that go extinct because of human causes, no one knows that they are killing the last member of a species. So please stop buying chambered nautilus shells before we go extinct! Thank you!

Update: In the United States, the Chambered Nautilus is listed under the Endangered Species Act. Trade of its shell is not being regulated 🙁 so the Chambered Nautilus is vulnerable to overfishing.

Also see 10 Awesome Cuttlefish Facts
and
Giant Squid Myths-True or False?

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