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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 »

I'm starting to suspect that my study organism, Dosidicus gigas, is a bit of a diva.

It seems like every other day there's a news story on Humboldt squid, jumbo squid, or (my favorite!) giant squid. (D. gigas is still not a giant squid.) I haven't been covering all of these articles here because, well . . . I didn't want to be a diva by association.

But this article is the most thorough I've seen yet, including all the interviews and topics that have been covered piecemeal in earlier articles, so it seemed like a good time to jump in and clarify a few items.
On this day of celebration, let us remember and honor the invaluable contributions of squid to pirate lore and culture:

- Davy Jones and the Kraken in Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Man's Chest. As observed elsewhere, the Kraken's mouth is much more like the Sarlaac than like any cephalopod I've ever seen, which is weird--wouldn't a huge clacking squid beak be more terrifying than concentric rings of teeth?
Slime vs. Ink

Slime vs. Ink

Sep 18 2009 | comment(s)

A Maui News article about the Hawaiian language caught my attention (okay, the attention of my google squid alert) with this sentence:
Waihee is usually translated as "octopus water," but there's a story about a man being killed by a squid who covered the area with slime.
I'm so intrigued! Was the man killed directly by slime, or did a squid, who tangentially covered the area with slime, also kill a man? What is the Hawaiian word that was translated as slime, and could it also mean ink?
Did you know that Isabella Rossellini writes, co-directs, and stars in a show about reproductive behavior and conservation? The show is called Green Porno. Yes, really!

It has just come to my attention that Season Three includes a squid episode! It's pretty awesome and only a few minutes long, so you should definitely go the website and check it out.

If Isabella Rossellini were a squid, she claims:

"Everyone would want to eat me." So true! Any marine predator (and even some terrestrial and avian predators) that can fit a squid in their mouth will happily devour these swimming protein bars.
This guy Spillane has a quarry on his property in Illinois, and for years he's been selling limestone to landscaping companies. And for years, he's been seeing fossils in the rock--particularly, fossil cephalopods.


Sep 16 2009 | comment(s)

You may recall classical Linnean taxonomy with the mnemonic "Kings Play Chess On Funky Green Squares" (or one of the racier alternatives) or perhaps you simply committed it to memory: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species. But if you hear about a group of animals--cephalopods for example--how are you to know which level it belongs in? Rules are variable, as is the case in much of biology, but the best clue is the last few letters of the word.

Unfortunately that doesn't help with Cephalopoda, so I'll just go ahead and tell you that it's a class. Squid form their own order within this class: