A couple months shy of a year ago, I was raving about the news that a new giant squid documentary was in the works.

Guess what? It's still in the works!

If this weren't so deadly serious (joke) I'd be laughing my head off about the meta-meta-reporting. I'm writing a blog post . . . about an article . . . about a documentary . . . that hasn't been filmed yet. And you're still reading? You should probably just go outside a watch a tree grow.

But wait, before you go, a pop quiz: Can squid hear?

Why do I ask? Well, this latest article about the documentary quotes a pioneer of deep-sea observation techniques as she discusses the challenges of observing "natural" behavior:
"But still, we're very limited because (the machines) we go and explore with make loud noises and bright light. And these animals have evolved to be very sensitive to that," Widder said.
In the case of squid, while they are obviously very sensitive to light, we actually don't know how sensitive they are to sound, if at all. In 1985, a fellow named Moynihan wrote an article entitled "Why Are Cephalopods Deaf?" only to be countered a couple of years later by Roger Hanlon's "Why Cephalopods Are Probably Not Deaf"! Hilarity ensued.

No, not really. What actually ensued was a couple decades of very little research into the question, because as it turns out cephalopod hearing is not really of tremendous concern to either researchers or (more likely) their funding sources. However, there were a few studies indicating that some cephalopods at least do respond to vibration in the water. Most recently, in 2008, scientists found "the first direct evidence that cephalopods detect kinetic sound components using statocysts." Woo!

Although cephalopods are probably not deaf, the sensitivity of any particular cephalopod to any particular sound is still anyone's guess. Maybe over the course of filming the giant squid documentary, they can play some Brahms and some Beatles, and see if Architeuthis has a preference.

In all seriousness, though, getting the footage for this film really does mean doing new science that's never been done before. At this point, we know so little about giant squids than any video will be groundbreaking. Any video will probably result in scientific papers, presentations, hypotheses and theories.
It wasn't until December 2006 that zoologist Tsunemi Kubodera of Japan's National Science Museum recorded the first video of a live giant squid. But mere glimpses of the giant squid won't suffice for an ambitious new project, spearheaded by the Discovery Channel, the Science Channel and the Japanese production firm NHK Enterprises. The aim is to create a two-part documentary featuring the giant squid (Architeuthis dux).
I'm fascinated by this blurry line between journalism and science. If the media (Discovery Channel, etc.) hadn't decided they wanted to report on it, there'd be no money to support the science, and therefore nothing to report on.

I wonder if scientists should spend more time pitching ideas to production companies than to granting agencies?