Nobody Got Pregnant From Eating Squid
    By Danna Staaf | June 16th 2012 03:30 PM | 10 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Danna

    Cephalopods have been rocking my world since I was in grade school. I pursued them through a BA in marine biology at the University of California...

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    Honestly, media. *polishes obnoxious academic spectacles* Is it really that difficult to comprehend the difference between "inseminate" and "impregnate"?

    On Thursday I reported that a woman's mouth had been inseminated by a squid she was eating. To be specific, squid spermatophores (packages of sperm) implanted themselves into her mucus membranes, and had to be removed by a doctor.

    Several sources have now erroneously reported that a woman was impregnated by a squid she was eating, and found baby squid in her mouth. Truth is strange--but this is fiction. "Impregnate" (in reproduction, not manufacturing) means that successful fertilization has already taken place: sperm met with egg and an embryo is developing. That did not happen. There was no impregnation, no pregnancy, and no baby squid.

    Just a little review of human reproduction: females keep eggs in ovaries, and once a menstrual cycle an egg migrates down a fallopian tube into the uterus. When this happens, if the female is inseminated, and if the sperm happens to meet the egg, then she can be impregnated (become pregnant). 

    All this happens very, very far away from the mouth.

    And even if you tried to mix human eggs with squid sperm (or human sperm with squid eggs), I can promise that no embryo would come of it. The gametes are so different as to be totally incompatible.

    So: nobody ever got pregnant from eating squid, or from any other contact with squid, and furthermore, it is not possible to become pregnant from eating squid, or from any other contact with squid.

    These are squid spermatophores, like those that jabbed themselves into the diner's mouth:

    These are squid babies, which were nowhere near the scene of the crime:

    Up next: awesome research from José Eduardo Marian, a huge spermatophore nerd (yes, even more than me). He actually got to study some of the spermatophores from the medical case study, and discovered some clues about how they work!


    In theory, a human could eat a female squid's egg sac and a male squid's spermatophores and have fertilization take place in the diner's mouth. (By the time they hit the stomach I suspect the acid would kill them even if cooking hadn't.) In such a case it would be correct to say the human's mouth was "impregnated."

    Danna Staaf
    Even in that case, it's highly unlikely that fertilization could occur. It's actually quite a tricky thing for anyone other than squid to correctly mix eggs and sperm in order to produce embryos. See this paper for details.
    Gerhard Adam
    Well, the only thing missing from this story is that it was a Genetically Modified squid.  If that story emerges from this .... well ....

    you're welcome :)
    Mundus vult decipi
    Well, science can't definitely prove it could never happen that squid spermatophores might impregnate a woman through her mouth, so they should come with a warning label.
    C'mon, rant all you want on your own blog, but the people who read this blog want to hear about squid.

    My favourite line is from Yahoo News, which, on top of using the 'pregnant' line, also had this howler:

    "In fact, doctors found baby cephalopods, which are small pods covered in adhesive to make them stick."

    That's... not what a cephalopod is, and you'd think four seconds on Wikipedia would clear that up. It's like saying someone rolled into the wet spot, and it consisted of mammals...

    As a side note, it's kind of sad to see people talking about 'squid babies'. News outlets, saying 'sperm' isn't going to kill you. You don't need to make it friendly for the kiddies and militant prolifers who are taking the whole 'every sperm is sacred' thing a little too seriously.

    'every sperm is sacred'

    Arghhh!!! Now you've got that song from "Monty Python's Meaning of Life" stuck in my head! :)

    Nobody Got Pregnant From Eating Squid
    Just imagine that as a tall story circulating among schoolchildren, back in the old days.

    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Oh come on, this is too easy! No body else is
    thinking "octomom"?

    Danna Staaf
    If you follow my links to the erroneous reportage, you'll see at least one other person thought of it. =)