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Squid @ National Geographic Magazine
   
By Roger HanlonPhotographs by Brian Skerry



Some are exquisite, others monstrous, but all are quick-change artists that can alter their appearance in a flash.



Get a taste of what awaits you in print from this compelling excerpt.

It was a wild night in Mexico's Gulf of California. Illuminated by powerful lights from small fishing boats, the water thrashed with squid so big that my jaw dropped in astonishment when I first saw them. Some were as large as a man, with bodies nearly six feet (two meters) long and weighing 150 pounds (70 kilograms). In more than 30 years of studying squid I had never seen any as big as these.

Pulling on diving gear, photographer Brian Skerry and I plunged feet first into this boiling stew of Humboldt, or jumbo, squid. Ranging the eastern Pacific, jumbos are fierce marine predators that will attack anything—from sardines to divers. Even before our entry bubbles cleared in front of our masks, I heard Brian bellow in alarm as a jumbo brushed his arm. In an instant he drew his dive knife and prepared to defend himself, but the big squid had fled.

Mention fearsome squid and people usually think of the giant squid, the elusive sea monster of sailors' tales and television documentaries. But squid families include 280 other species, from the monstrous to the minute in size, ranging all the world's oceans. For nearly four months Brian and I immersed ourselves in their element, diving in waters from Cape Cod to Venezuela to California.

In my work at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, I study not only squid but the class of mollusks they belong to—cephalopods, which includes octopuses, cuttlefish, and nautiluses. Squid are known by their eight arms and two long feeding tentacles. They also have sharp, parrot-like beaks and three hearts—a central heart plus two more that pump blood through the gills.

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Multimedia
VIDEO Squid "live fast and die young." Listen to photographer Brian Skerry talk about the "James Dean of the sea."

AUDIO Hear the full interview (recommended for low-speed connections).
RealPlayer  WinMedia
Video
Talk about fast food! Watch a squid snap up prey.
RealPlayer  WinMedia

Video
Was that a hug and a kiss? Watch male Caribbean reef squid pursue females in the waters of Venezuela.
RealPlayer  WinMedia


More to Explore

In More to Explore the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information. Special thanks to the Research Division.

Did You Know?
Squid have an interesting and complex sex life that in some respects rivals anything seen on reality TV. Competition for females is fierce, and males of some species have developed different tactics to trump their rivals and "win the girl." In one such ploy, a male cuts in on a mated pair by disguising himself as the female, mimicking her color pattern and duping her mate into thinking he's getting another sex partner. The imposter mates with the female, then jets away before his outwitted opponent has a chance to do him harm.

—Roger Hanlon
Did You Know?

Related Links
Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole
www.mbl.edu
Learn about the renowned Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, where author Roger Hanlon is a senior scientist pioneering new research on cephalopods.

MBL Guide to How Squid Change Color
hermes.mbl.edu/publications/Loligo/squid/skin.0.html
An MBL guide to how the Caribbean reef squid changes its skin color using chromatophores.

Cephalopod Database at the Natural Resource Center for Cephalopods
www.cephbase.utmb.edu
The National Resource Center for Cephalopods at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas, has created a database that provides taxonomic data, life history, distribution, images, videos, references, and scientific contact information on all living species of cephalopods in an easy to access, user-friendly manner.

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Bibliography
Hanlon, Roger T., and John B. Messenger. Cephalopod Behaviour. Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Messenger, J. B. "Cephalopod Chromatophores: Neurobiology and Natural History." Biological Review, vol. 76, 473-528.

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NGS Resources
Mandel, Peter. "In Search of the Giant Squid." National Geographic Kids (March 2004), 34-5.

Hogan, Dan. "Sea Monsters." National Geographic Explorer! (September 2003), 14-9.

Grupper, Jonathan. Destination: Deep Sea. National Geographic Books, 2000.

Allen, Thomas B. "Deep Mysteries of Kaikoura Canyon." National Geographic (June 1998), 106-17.

Voss, Gilbert L. "Squids: Jet-powered Torpedoes of the Deep." National Geographic (March 1967), 386-411.

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