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Danna StaafRSS Feed of this column.

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, Santa Barbara, followed by a PhD dissertation at... Read More »

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My very first mentor in cephalopod research was Eric Hochberg at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. I think I was seventeen when he welcomed me into the museum's secret catacombs (at least, that's how I thought of them) of preserved specimens. Awe washed over me as I stared at shelves upon shelves of jarred octopuses.

Eric introduced me to the California pygmy octopus, Octopus micropyrsus, which would proceed to fascinate me for the rest of my undergraduate career. I saw more of them in jars than I ever did alive, though I kept doggedly digging through kelp holdfasts trying to find them. Reclusive little beasts.
I love four things about this story.

First: there is an All England squid catching championship. Did you know that? I did not know that.

Second: the weather this year was so bad the competitors were almost completely skunked. Almost.

Third: This is the cutest trophy shot I have EVER SEEN.


Photo: Robin Howard/BNPS
I may have mentioned before that squid fishermen of the Falkland Islands go after two very different species: Illex argentinus, the shortfin squid, an open-ocean animal that migrates between Falkland and Argentinian waters, and Loligo gahi, the Patagonian squid, which is present in both Falkland and Argentinian waters but doesn't move much between the two.
It's called Knowledge and it's a short story by John Frizell in Nature. Did you know that Nature publishes short stories, one at the back of every issue? They do!
No human could have grasped the squid's name. Human eyes could not distinguish the differences in shades of colour or register the intervals at which they changed to define the unique pattern that was his name. The squid was concentrating hard because he was holding two conversations at once, one deliberately misleading, the other closer to the truth, as he glided through the deep ocean, his mantle pulsing gently, powering him with puffs of water.
A new instance of Mesonychoteuthis hamiltonii, more commonly known as the colossal squid:
A HUGE squid weighing 120 kilograms found off Portland [Australia, not Oregon] last week is believed to be a rare species to south-west waters.
Local fisherman and boat operator Bob McPherson said his investigations pointed to the orange-coloured squid being a colossal type, slightly smaller than a giant squid caught off New Zealand last year.
“It’s a pretty rare species for these waters,” he told The Standard.
It was the year 2000, I think, and I was on a college field trip to the tidepools. The class was Invertebrate Zoology, so we were flipping rocks over and listing off the phyla as fast as we could identify them. Then someone lifted a big slab and gasped: there was a red octopus, chowing down on a shore crab.

I remember this scene so vividly in part because I love octopuses, but also because of a comment the professor made: "This is remarkable, because it's really quite rare to see an act of predation in the wild."

Surprising perhaps, but true. Predation events tend to happen very quickly. Predators are vulnerable while they're eating, so they snarf down their food at lightening speeds and/or hide while they're eating--like the octopus.