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February 13, 2007

Giant squid dazzles prey

Giant squid have natural strobes to disorient their prey, Japanese scientists reveal:

Writing in a Royal Society journal, they say the squid are far from the sluggish, inactive beasts once thought.

In fact, the footage, taken in 2005 - the first time T. danae had been captured on camera in their natural environment - reveals them to be aggressive predators. [BBC]

If you click on the link above, you can watch the video on the BBC website.


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One of the great pleasures of working aboard commercial fishing boats was seeing the amazing stuff pulled up. Off the coast of Washington and Oregon I saw a number of very large squid, the robust clubhook squid (Moroteuthis robusta) in Pacific hake trawls. Not this photoluminescent squid, nor the giant squid, but still pretty impressive: the largest one I weighed was a little over seventy pounds. I once found a pair of the reproductive tentacles tangled in the net lines that were 14 feet long. In those waters one of my tasks was to see what was in salmon stomachs. It was mostly tiny squid larvae.

In the tropical Pacific, tuna boats often drift at night. The stern is lit up like a car sales lot which attracts foot-long squid (Loligo sp. I think) that zip around in the pool of light by the thousands. We’d fish for them occasionally using just a squid jig on a nylon monofilament line. The technique was to whirl the jig, a little porcelain thing with a crown of tiny hooks, and fling it as far out as you could, then pull it back through the swarm of squid. The squid chase the jig, lunging at it with their tentacles, which open just a fraction of a second from their usual hydrodynamic clustered position. You give the jig a yank to set the hooks. The mantles are sliced, marinated in teriyaki sauce and dried into jerky or barbecued.

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