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The Squid: Facts and Pictures about this Colossal Creature

Caribbean Reef Squid in Grand Cayman reef off Seven Mile Beach.

Caribbean Reef Squid in Grand Cayman reef off Seven Mile Beach.

When I first pondered writing about squids, I thought it would be too boring to consider. I thought their colors were mostly boring and drab. But I was in for a nice surprise. They can be quite colorful and they can change their colors to match their environment! Plus they seem to have quite a personality too.

Squids are the things that stories and myths are made of. For hundreds of years, tales have been told of a many-armed sea monster with tentacles as tall as a ship’s mast. In Jules Verne's classic "20,000 Leagues under the Sea," a giant squid attacks a submarine. In this story he wrote about a monstrous creature with arms that “could entangle a ship of five hundred tons and hurry it into the abyss of the ocean.” Legends and tales such as these were likely based on sightings of the Giant Squid. defines squid as: “Any of various marine cephalopod mollusks of the genus Loligo and related genera, having a usually elongated body, ten arms surrounding the mouth, a vestigial internal shell, and a pair of triangular or rounded fins.” It’s this internal shell that makes the squid a mollusk, just like the snail, octopus, or nudibranch.

In addition to being a mollusk, the squid is also a cephalopod. Other cephalopods include: cuttlefish, octopuses, and nautiluses. There are more than 300 species of squid.

Squid can range in length from 1” (25.4 cm) to more than 43 feet (13 meters)! There have been some unconfirmed reports of caught giant squids measuring 65 feet (19.8 meters) long! That is quite a range. The larger squid can reach over 1000 pounds in weight. The majority of them are no more than 24” (60 cm) long. Most squid have a long, tube shaped body, a small head, and 10 arms. Two of these arms are much longer than the others and are used to grasp their prey. These arms, or tentacles, are lined with rows of suckers. Some squid also have claw-like hooks instead of, or in addition to, these suckers.

The squid's mouth is surrounded by these 10 tentacles. Its mouth is composed of a parrot-like beak (jaw) and a bony tongue. The squid’s eyes are located on the sides of its head and are very large. The larger squid have eyes measuring more than one foot in diameter. Like the octopus, the squid has three hearts.

The squid is arranged with its body on one side of its head, and its arms on the other. Between the head and the body, is a tube called the funnel. The funnel serves several purposes; the first of which is to eliminate wastes. The funnel is also used to dispense its defensive ink. They are also very powerful swimmers because they use this funnel as a propulsion system. See this short video of a squid caught by an underwater camera. The squid reminds me of a rocket zooming past, while at the same time releasing its ink. If you blink you just might miss it!

This picture was taken in Sydney South, Sydney, NSW, AU.

This picture was taken in Sydney South, Sydney, NSW, AU.

A very nice close-up of a Loligo Opalescens in infrared. Monterey, CA

A very nice close-up of a Loligo Opalescens in infrared. Monterey, CA

A squid is actually able to propel itself 25 body lengths per second! Squid are strong swimmers and certain species can 'fly' for short distances out of the water.

Squids are very intelligent; in fact, they are the most intelligent invertebrate on the earth. Their brain is very developed and is proportionately larger than its body, compared to other fish and reptiles.

Squids make their homes in a variety of marine environments, ranging from the deepest ocean to shallow coastal areas.

The squid relies on its speed, agility, and the ability to camouflage itself to escape its predators. The squid is able to camouflage itself using special pigmented cells that it expands and contracts, enabling it to change colors and patterns to match its surroundings. It is even able to change the texture of its skin to blend in with its surroundings. It is also able to release an ink cloud to confuse its attackers, giving it time to escape.

"Just about everything squids do is interesting, but the way they can change their pattern of pigmentation with respect to the substratum is particularly striking. When on a light background, a squid tends to contract its pigment-containing cells so that the pigment becomes concentrated in tiny, widely spaced flecks; the body as a whole thus becomes lighter. On a dark background, the pigment cells expand, diffusing the pigment over a larger area and making the body darker."

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[ From Seashore Life of the Northern Pacific Coast, by Eugene N. Kozloff ]

The deep-sea luminescent squid lives in really deep water -- up to 3,000 feet. This squid possesses special organs called photophores to create its own light in these deep, dark waters.

Squid are carnivores; their diet consisting of small fish, crabs, shrimp, and other squid. The squid lies in ambush of its prey waiting upon the opportune moment to shoot out its arms to grab its prey. Its beak is used to tear its meal into bite-sized pieces, after which its bony tongue is used to grind them up.

Their special pigmented cells that were mentioned earlier are also used to communicate with other squid and to attract a mate. After having attracted a mate, thousands of eggs are fertilized and deposited as a mass hidden under rocks or in holes. These eggs hatch in four to eight weeks. After mating, both male and female typically die, having lived approximately one year.

Because most squid’s digestive juices are more productive in warmer waters, global warming has allowed these squid to grow much larger and be a lot more plentiful. But, it could have a detrimental effect on the squid who live in deeper depths and colder waters. These squid may not be able to make the adjustment necessary to survive as water temperatures continue to rise.

Many species of squid are used as food that is often referred to as calamari, taken from the Greek-Italian word for these very unique creatures.

The Humboldt Squid

The Humboldt Squid, nicknamed the red devil, is ferocious, and is known to attack sharks. Although it is one of the most aggressive squid, it poses no threat to humans. It is also sometimes referred to as the jumbo squid. But don’t let the name mislead you. They only get to about 7 feet (2.13 meters) long, and weigh up to 100 pounds (45.36 kg). They are able to swim about 15 miles per hour.

The Humboldt Squid is able to change colors in shades ranging from red and purple, all the way to white. Although it was once thought this was for camouflage purposes, it is now believed to be a form of communication.

The Humboldt Squid is named for the Humboldt Current in the East Pacific Ocean which is their typical habitat. The Humboldt is a social creature, unlike most squid, living in groups (shoals) of up to 1,200.

They generally feed on the surface at night when their prey, krill and various small fishes, are readily available. During the day, they return to the deeper waters that they typically inhabit. If food is scarce, they will cannibalize members of their shoal.

An amazing picture of squid eggs!

An amazing picture of squid eggs!

Vampire Squid! Oh my!

The Vampire Squid was first identified in 1903. The Vampire Squid has red glowing eyes, a black body, and webbed arms resembling Dracula’s cape, hence its name. Although its eyes are often seen as red, they can also appear as blue depending on how much light strikes the eye. It is a small squid measuring approximately one foot in length.

The vampire squid does not disperse ink as other squids do. Instead, it shoots out a type of mucus that is sticky. The vampire squid is slower than most other squid. It disperses this mucus for 10 minutes creating longer periods of confusion in its predators providing itself more time to escape.

Because of their slow metabolism, vampire squid are able to live in colder waters, and only need to feed a few times a week. The Vampire Squid lives more than 3,000 feet below the surface of cold water areas!

Most squid eggs hatch within a few days to weeks of being deposited; however, the Vampire Squid eggs take about 13 months to hatch! Once deposited, the female Vampire Squid will stay in the vicinity until they hatch, at which time she dies.

Contrary to popular belief, this squid poses no threat to humans.

Japanese Flying Squid

The Japanese Flying Squid is on the opposite end of the spectrum in size compared to the Giant and Colossal Squids. The Japanese Flying Squid is very small and lightweight. These squid live in cooler waters and spend the majority of their time very close to the surface.

Giant Squid

There are eight species of Giant Squid. The Giant Squid has tentacles with suckers that are lined with small teeth. The Giant Squid can reach lengths of up to 43 feet (13 meters), with tentacles accounting for half that length. The females tend to be approximately 10 feet longer than their male counterparts. The eyes of the giant squid are the size of basketballs!

Giant Squid are rarely seen. Their preferred habitat is the colder deeper waters. Their only predators are sperm whales and humans.

Although the giant squid is the thing that legends are made of, it is harmless to humans. The giant squid may have given rise to the Norwegian myth of a many-armed sea monster, the kraken.

Colossal Squid

The Colossal Squid, which is even larger than the giant squid, has tentacles that end in extremely sharp swiveling hooks. Its body is wider and stouter. Its tentacles are shorter than the Giant Squid’s but it has a longer mantle. The Colossal Squid has the largest eyes of any other creature on earth. Weighing in over 1000 pounds, the Colossal Squid is the largest known invertebrate.

The only known predators of the Colossal Squid are the Sperm Whale and humans.

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Copyright © 2011 Cindy Murdoch


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Comments: "The Squid: Facts and Pictures about this Colossal Creature"

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on March 20, 2012:

Thanks, I will have to. PdxKaraokeGuy.

Justin W Price from Juneau, Alaska on March 18, 2012:

you should, cindy. it's bomb that way!

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on February 13, 2012:

PDXKaraokeGuy - I too like Calamari! I have never had them with a side of noodles. Thanks for stopping back by!

Justin W Price from Juneau, Alaska on February 12, 2012:

ya. Crazy creatures. So many of them have such short life spans, though... and squid are great deep fried in batter with a side of noodles

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on February 08, 2012:

PDXKaraokeGuy - I'm glad you enjoyed this hub about squids. They really were more interesting to learn more about than I thought they would be, especially the Vampire Squid video. Thanks so much!

Justin W Price from Juneau, Alaska on February 07, 2012:

another really fun hub, Cindy. Up and shared....

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on January 28, 2012:

alocsin - It's good to know that the videos added to your viewing pleasure. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on January 28, 2012:

One of my favorite animals -- the videos add so much. Voting this Up and Interesting.

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 08, 2011:

HikeGuy - It took a while to find the photos that I was happy with. The videos showing the pigmentation changes and the vampire squid turning inside out were truly awesome. I am pleased that you enjoyed them. Thanks for stopping by!

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 08, 2011:

Jami - what a wonderful thing to say. Thank you! I do love the sea and find the creatures in it very fascinating! I am really glad you enjoyed this one, but my favorite is the nudibranch. I'm not sure about the calamari however, I'm sure that the tentacles of all of them probably taste about the same. But I could be wrong!

Thanks for stopping by! I do plan to do more sealife hubs in the future, so be on the look-out!

Bryce from Northern California Coast on November 08, 2011:

Gorgeous photos! I enjoyed all the details about the pigmentation changes and the vampire squid. I've been following squid since the media coverage on giant squids -- they're amazing.

jami l. pereira on November 08, 2011:

I truly believe that writing about the sea , is your niche' ! This was awesome and interesting and useful , cause i didn't know all of it lol ,and i voted up as such ! Great write ! thank you for the read! Amazing ! ohh and what kind of squid is used for calamari dishes? because i love that too and i didn't see it on here (joking) but i really do love calamari :)Blessings your way !:)

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on October 16, 2011:

september girl - I really like the video where the vampire squid turns itself inside out!Thanks for stopping by.

september girl on October 16, 2011:

Scary looking things, but great hub and photos. Videos too! : )

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on October 16, 2011:

ubani- I am glad that you stopped by also. I am also glad that you ope to see you agains soon.

Alexander Thandi Ubani from Lagos on October 16, 2011:

Am glad i stopped by to acquire this knowledge about squids. A well written and researched piece. Awesome

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on September 17, 2011:

I'm with you Dr.Rockpile. I didn't know that their looks varied as much either. It was a nice surprise. Thanks for commenting.

Dr Rockpile from USA on September 17, 2011:

Great job with this hub! I never knew their looks were so varied.

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on September 16, 2011:

Movie Master - I was pleasantly surprised myself. I enjoyed writing - I'm glad you enjoyed reading it. Thanks for the votes and for stopping by!

Movie Master from United Kingdom on September 16, 2011:

Hi homesteadbound, I had no idea squids were so colourful or interesting and again I have learnt a lot from your hubs.

The fact it can propel itself 25 body lengths per second is amazing! Voting up.

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on September 16, 2011:

Cloverleaf - What a wonderful experience! It's wonderful to be able to share such divine experiences with the one you love. Making memories to last a lifetime. Thanks for stopping by and for the votes!

Cloverleaf from Calgary, AB, Canada on September 16, 2011:

Hi homesteadbound,

My husband and I went for a night-time snorkel once in Grand Cayman. We found ourselves swimming very closely to two squid, probably each about 1ft long. We were swimming with a dive light so they were lit up pretty good and their colors were divine. Even though they didn't seem threatened by us they did squirt ink and it was quite incredible to watch it disperse into the ocean. Amazing creatures!

Thank you for your beautiful hub, voting up and pressing all the buttons!!!


Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on September 16, 2011:

lundmusik - why is it that some dogs never realize that they are small? My big dogs always have to remind my poms that they are not as big as they think they are. But I think the Humboldt has the bite to back up his bark.

lundmusik from Tucson AZ on September 15, 2011:

that's how i saw your humboldt squid,, I love one of my pugs especially for just that kind of attitude....

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on September 15, 2011:

lundmusik - So a creature that has no bones actually has a whole lot of backbone. Interesting! I like the never back down attitude...willing to stand up for what you believe in or know to be true.

lundmusik from Tucson AZ on September 15, 2011:

the ferocity,, never back down,, !!! sounds like it has quite a reputation for a creature with no bones

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on September 15, 2011:

lundmusik - because it was called the red devil, or because it was ferocious, or because it attacked sharks and cameras - what makes it your kind of squid? Just wonder? Hummmm ... Thanks for stopping by.

lundmusik from Tucson AZ on September 15, 2011:

Hey,,, that humboldt,, my kind of squid!!!!

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