Today I’m going to introduce you to another of the many charismatic creatures that can be spotted around our jetty. This time it is the Squid!
Squid, like the Octopus, are Cephalopods. This means that they are soft-bodied, with only a small internal skeleton. They are bilaterally symmetrical, with a distinct head, a sharp beak, and keen eyes.
Like the Octopus, the Squid is highly intelligent, and are often found moving around in groups, hunting together. These creatures hunt by grasping their prey with two large tentacles, whilst using its other eight arms to hold and control it and finally biting into the prey with its sharp beak.
Here are a few more of their many hidden talents:
Jet Propulsion & Ink
When under threat, Squid have the ability to promptly escape. Firstly, they will eject ink into the surrounding waters. This obscures the vision of the predator, allowing the squid some time to disappear. On top of this, they can move quickly out of the way, using an ability called jet propulsion. This is achieved by inflating the mantle cavity with a large volume of water, and then quickly contracting the muscular wall of the mantle cavity forcing the water out rapidly, and causing the squid to travel backward at speed!
Squid can change the colour of themselves swiftly, to camouflage themselves the background, to communicate with each other, to navigate and to confuse prey. This is achieved by the contracting and detracting cells in their skin called Chromatophores. In addition to this, the skin also contains reflectors called iridophores and leucophores to change the patterns of their skin in milliseconds. To our eyes, the Squid can appear to ‘shimmer’ and can change from dark to light in the blink of an eye.
Little or Large?
Although the Reef Squid we see around our islands grow to only about 30cm in length, the deeper waters outside the atolls are home to a much larger specimen – the Diamond Back Squid, or more commonly known as the Giant Squid! These can reach up to about 1m in mantle (body) length; not accounting for the tentacles! If you are ever lucky enough to spot Risso’s Dolphins in the Maldives, you will see their large battle scars, a memoir of their fights with the giant squid.