Have you ever seen a squid speak?
The giant Humboldt squid can grow to be as long as you are, and heavier too. They hunt in groups, have a 2-inch long beaks that help them sever fish spines, and have a reputation for meeting unfamiliar objects — like cameras, lighting equipment, divers’ masks — with aggression. In other words, it’s hard to get close to these animals.
That’s why scientists working with a remote imaging team at National Geographic decided to put camera “sweaters” — tubes of Lycra-like material cut from children’s swim shirts — on a few Humboldts to get a squid’s eye view of maybe their most interesting behavior: Color-flashing communication.
It’s honestly some of the most amazing nature footage I’ve ever seen.
Publishing their results in the Journal of Experimental Biology, the scientists aren’t sure what the squid are trying to say, but they are fairly certain they are communicating with each other. Humboldt squid do so by rapidly squeezing cells in their skin called chromatophores and turning their whole bodies from white to red and back again. This flashing can change speed and direction on the skin in response to all kinds of squid interactions, from mating attempts to displays of aggression.
But which patterns the squid show off have yet to be mapped onto some kind of color vocabulary. This is the first time we’ve strapped a camera to a squid.
You can watch the longer video of what the National Geographic Crittercam captured below. It’s incredible:
What strikes me is the incredible speed of these animals. Spiked suckers can unfurl out of nowhere to grab onto another squid and then disappear back into the darkness just ask quickly. The way a 6-foot long squid would dart in for a touch of another…the first minute of the video above made my jaw drop.
You can read more about the footage over at National Geographic.
IMAGES/VIDEO: Used with explicit permission from National Geographic