That first week of November is now passed in a flash of flame. Well that’s how mine went, mostly because I was burnt at the stake at my town’s Firework Festival. A liberal amount of fire was just what the doctor prescribed for last week’s animal, the macabre body armour of the Corpse Assassin Bug. This week’s animal also hates fire but for a whole different reason. Calamari anyone?
Issue #39 Humboldt Squid
Kingdom – Animalia
Phylum – Mollusca
Class – Cephalopoda
Order – Teuthidia
Family – Ommastrephidae
Genus – Dosidicus
Species – gigas
Related Species - The Humboldt Squid is one of twenty species in the family Ommastrephidae, a group commonly called ‘Flying Squids’ after observations of shoals escaping from predators by jetting out of the water (1)
The Red Devils
Humboldt Squids, named after famous Prussian Naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, is a large squid with a mantle length of 1.5m and a total length of over two meters. The species, like all squids have eight arms and two long feeding tentacles, all of which are lined with sucker rings, which themselves are ringed with jagged ‘teeth’ for shredding prey before it reaches the squid’s formidable beck. Humboldt Squid are a shoaling species and have been seen in shoals of over 1000 animals (2).
When in a shoal Humboldt Squid continue signal each other by flashing colours on their flanks, usually white to red. It is theorized that the flashing acts as a lure for prey while hunting in the deep sea, or at night near the surface. While formidable predators in their own right Humboldt Squid are preyed upon by Sperm Whales (Physeter macrocephalus), large sharks and billfish not to mention human fisherman.
It is from fisherman that the squid’s aggressive reputation is recorded, with hooked animals fighting desperately to free themselves only to be attacked by the rest of the shoal. More recently a pair of Humboldt Squid attacked a Greenpeace submarine and there are several serious reported attacks on divers (3). Yet despite the seemingly aggressive nature, the cause of the attacks seems to be flashing lights, and there are just as many accounts of divers swimming with shoals of Humboldt Squid and not being attacked at all.
Five Fun Humboldt Squid Facts
Like all Cephalopods Humboldt Squid live short lives, with most individuals only living a single year.
In their native range some local fisherman would rather swim with sharks then enter the water with a shoal of Humboldt Squid, nicknaming them Diablos Rohas due to their aggressive natures and flashing colours
Despite this there is a growing demand for Humboldt Squid in fancy restaurants. Between 2005 - 2006 between 55 and 60 thousand tons were landed in Mexican Waters alone.
While fishing removes a massive amount of the population, the number of Humboldt Squid is booming thanks to increased water temperatures that have allowed them to massively expand the range they live across.
Some deep-sea squid are even stranger then the Humboldt Squid. One species Octopoteuthis deletron practices a unique hunting strategy called ‘Attack Autotomy’. When threatened the squid will brake off an arm tipped with razor like suckers, which then wiggles towards the predator and slowly rips it to pieces, so that the meal is ready to eat when the main body of the squid returns.
1 - www.arkive.org
2 -. Zeidberg, L. & B.H. Robinson 2007. Invasive range expansion by the Humboldt squid, Dosidicus gigas, in the eastern North Pacific. PNAS104(31): 12948–12950.
3 - http://news.discovery.com/animals/jumbo-squid-attack-greenpeace-submarine-141014.htm
4 - Tennesen, Michael (December 1, 2004). "The Curious Case of the Cannibal Squid" National Wildlife Federation.
1 - http://cdn1.arkive.org/media/67/67615786-CF03-46E6-B83A-9634E96C834D/Presentation.Large/Humboldt-squid.jpg
2 - http://bioweb.uwlax.edu/bio203/s2012/bonis_alis/map%20richard%20E.%20Young.jpg
3 - http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2009/07/17/article-1200323-05BC974A000005DC-382_634x286.jpg
4 - http://cdn1.arkive.org/media/4D/4D5C8AB2-E1BA-4C56-8530-A16FC7DDA4AF/Presentation.Large/Humboldt-squid-feeding.jpg
And there we have it, the great expansionist and aggressive predator known as the Humboldt Squid. Next week despite the fact I'm on holiday in Slovenia (those Olms be tripping) there will be a new issue featuring a reptile that shouldn't be able to climb…but does. Until then comment, critic and check out the Bestiary of Past Issues if you feel like revisiting an animal that you may have missed.