Squid Refuse To Be Outdone By Octopuses, Film Themselves
    By Danna Staaf | August 6th 2010 07:43 PM | 9 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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    Remember the octopus that stole a diver's camera and filmed itself swimming away? Ha ha ha, very nice--but it's only a few minutes of footage of only one octopus. Can you top that, Humboldt squid? Why yes, I think you can!

    Well okay, scientists helped out a little bit. My PhD advisor Gilly figured out how to attach National Geographic's Crittercam (which has been stuck on whales and turtles, but never before, I believe, on an invertebrate) to a Humboldt squid. It was a tricky endeavor to affix a camera to a smooth, slippery, bendy surface. Squids won't wear collars, and they have no hard shell that will take epoxy.

    Gilly's brilliant solution? Buy a little girl's bathing suit, chop off the top and bottom, and you've got a snug-fitting tube that just fits around a squid mantle. (Sure, the Nat Geo article calls it a "synthetic sleeve" but that's just a matter of semantics.)

    After the scientists maneuvered a squid into this thing and sent it out to film, they got back hours of footage of dozens of squid swimming around and interacting with each other in as close to natural circumstances as anyone has ever seen. No big submersible with bright lights, no divers blowing bubbles and chumming. Just one squid with a funny-looking bump on its back.

    The footage is amazing, and of course everyone wanted more. After the lastest attempt at another Crittercam deployment, however, Gilly had to report:
    Everything went fine (except for the fact that the squid bit me), but the camera pack never reported back to us by radio like it should have after detaching and floating to the surface. Despite two days of visual searching we failed to find it. We don't know if there was a technical glitch or whether the squid (and it was a lively one!) swam out of radio
    range. . . . Science, like everything else, can have really bad days. This is an important lesson for young researchers like Lauren, the student who was doing the camera project. It's the real world.
    True dat. Fortunately Lauren is both resilient and resourceful, and has come up with some very cool science from analyzing the earlier Crittercam video. Top secret, though. I can't tell you about it.

    If you want to see for yourself whether Humboldt squid are good videographers, check out National Geographic's episode all about the first Crittercam deployment. And in this case "check out" actually means "hope that they show it again soon, because when it first aired you were busy having a mad party to celebrate the fact that you successfully defended your thesis and are actually done with grad school after all these years, can it be true?!"

    At least, that's what it means for me.

    While we're waiting, we can snicker and/or exchange long-suffering looks over the fact that the photo National Geographic chose to represent their Cannibal Squid episode is . . . not a squid.

    Nope, not even a little bit. That, my friends, is Octopus dofleini.

    So maybe octopuses get the last laugh after all.


    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    These alien-like squid with elbows close to Shell's oil-rig in the Gulf of Mexico at 1000 of metres under the ocean are pretty amazing. I wonder if they had anything to do with engineering the BP oil spill? See
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at
    Danna Staaf
    Yeah, Magnapinna is awesome! But probably too delicate to do much damage...
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Do you know how the BP oil spill will affect them?
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at
    To my knowledge, Humboldt Squids live in the Pacific Ocean (Cortes Sea) not in Caribbean or Mexican Gulf so your fears could not be realized... B.P. oil drilling can be safe... at least in this sense. Ha!

    What I saw in the NatGeo Video (very interesting indeed), seems to me, to be some kind of jellyfish not a squid ...
    Danna Staaf
    You're right, Augusto, Humboldt squid live in the Eastern Pacific (all the way from Chile to Canada, although they may be best studied in Mexico's Sea of Cortez) and not in the Gulf of Mexico. However, Helen was asking about a different squid, Magnapinna:

    which has been sighted at a number of oil drilling sites. Helen, I don't think anyone knows nearly enough about these squid to guess how they'd deal with oil--which is unfortunately the case for many, many invertebrates. Deep-Sea News has some excellent examples.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Wow, that was depressing reading, but thanks for the feedback Danna.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at
    Yay, saw the throw-away about your celebrating your defense-- congratulations, Dr. Staaf!

    Danna Staaf
    Thank you!!
    Cool footage, but what’s with the presentation? Is this a show for children? Had to mute it.