They have other intriguing features as well. We tend to think of squid as relatively sociable animals traveling in schools or shoals, but Octopoteuthis lives a solitary life in the deep sea, rarely coming across another member of the same species.
Which brings us to this very cool study. Henk-Jan Hoving (with whom I have had the pleasure to drink lemonade and geek out about cephalopods) and his colleagues found that males of Octopoteuthis deletron hedge their bets by mating with any conspecific* they find--male or female. Scandalous!
It's not the first time male squid have been known to deposit sperm with other male squid--I've even seen it in our gregarious friend the Humboldt squid. But it's rare. In O. deletron mating is truly indiscriminate--the authors found sperm in equal proportions in males and females.
When you think about it, it's not too surprising. I certainly can't tell the sexes apart in most species of squid; why should I expect them to be able to? Anyway, sperm is cheap--better to err on the side of accidentally inseminating a male than to miss your chance to inseminate a female. Especially when deep-sea encounters are few and far between.
But once you start thinking along these lines, you have to wonder--just how indiscriminate are they? Would a male O. deletron mate with any old squid he came across, even if it isn't the same species? After all, inseminating a member of a different species (male or female) is no more of a dead end than inseminating a male of the same species. And telling the different between species may be just as much effort as telling the difference between genders. So, I wonder . . .
* I really wrestled with this sentence! Conspecific is horrid biological jargon, and I rebelled against using it, but it's just so much more succinct than "member of the same species." Eventually I weakened, and left it in. Forgive me.