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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 »


Today begins the Third Annual International Cephalopod Awareness Days! Naturally, since it is the eighth of the month, we are honoring octopods today. This provides the perfect opening for my favorite cephalo-rant: the etymologically correct plural of octopus.
Chiroteuthids (ky-ro-tooth-ids) are crazy weird squid; their most notable feature is having two sets of fins on the "tail end" of their mantles as paralarvae. To me, this is nearly as bizarre as imagining a whole family of mammals in which babies are born with two sets of hind legs. I imagine cranchiid (cran-kid) squid shouting "hey, four-fins!" as they pass a chiroteuthid in the depths.

(Only technically they aren't four fins:
I get some bizarre hits from my google squid alert, like this opinion piece discussing the "Democratic Squid." Squid-A-Day has nothing to say about Chicago, the Olympics, or Obama's foreign policy, but at least I can set the record straight on biology:
My personal favorite sepiolid is the striped pyjama squid. It burrow in the sand! It secretes mucus! And it is spelled in the British way! Seriously, nothing should be allowed to be that cute:

As a bonus, its eyes are closed in this picture, to minimize potential creepiness.

A couple of years ago, during one of these flurries of Humboldt squid activity in the Pacific Northwest, people were reporting headless squid bodies on the beach. It turned out that at least one and possibly several local wolves had caught on to the protein bonanza, and were carrying squid heads home for a calamari feast.

Fun squid fact: squid heads are generally not very well attached to their bodies, so if you grab the head and pull, you'll often leave the body behind. This is probably what was happening to the wolves, and they weren't motivated enough to come back for the bodies.
A biologist friend of mine recently heard from a journalist who was fact-checking a squid article. (Go, conscientious journalism!) The article included the line "the Humboldt squid is five feet long from beak to tentacle tip" and the journalist wanted to know: Is that right, or it would be more correct to say six feet long?

The biologist in question was left wondering if the writer had ever, you know, looked at a squid and considered how one might want to measure it: