The legendary sea monster, the Kraken, is believed to have been inspired from a real life giant squid
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Mollusca
- Class: Cephalopoda
- Order: Teuthida
- Family: Oegopsina
Apart from having an extremely soft body, these creatures have a very large head and large brain to go with that.
All squid are either cigar-shaped or spherical, and they possess two lateral fins on their sides.
The size of a squid can vary from area to area. Some are just 24 inches long while some can grow up to 40 feet. In 2007, a giant squid was found near New Zealand, which weighed an unbelievable 1,000 pounds and was more than 10 meters in length.
There are 8-suction-cup-bearing arms around the mouth of a squid, and these are complemented by two contractile tentacles with spatulate tips. This appearance gives the creature a very scary look, especially for its prey.
The prey is caught by the two contractile tentacles, which are longer than the other arms, and then passed to the other arms to hold the prey, while the strong jaw tears it apart. Studies also reveal that the jaw of this creature resembles the beak of a parrot.
They are extremely fast swimmers, faster than any other invertebrate, and they achieve this by expelling water rapidly from their mantle cavity. This water passes through what is known as a funnel, and it is due to this movement that the squid moves with a tail-first action. These creatures possess bioluminescence.
One fact about them that is sure to fascinate kids is that they release a cloud of dark, black ink when they are pursued by a predator. This ink clouds the water, making it impossible for the predator to see the squid.
There are about 300 different species of squid that are known to human beings, but it is widely assumed that there are many more species out there that are still unknown to us. The reason for such a large number of species is their versatility and adaptability. They can be found in saltwater as well as freshwater bodies and can survive and sustain themselves in a wide range of temperature levels.
The five most commonly known varieties of squid are as follows.
The five most commonly known varieties of squid are as follows.
✦ Giant Squid (Architeuthis)
There are a total of eight species that fall into this category. On an average, males are about 30 to 33 feet (9 to 10 meters) long, while females are 40 to 43 feet (12 to 13 meters) long. Thus, females are bigger than males. Their eyes are as large as basketballs. They are known to be very fast swimmers.
✦ Colossal Squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni)
This is said to be the largest species of squid and also the largest invertebrate in the world. It is 40 to 46 feet (12 to 14 meters) long. It is bulkier than the giant squid. It also has the largest eye size, more than 10 inches in diameter. It has sharp hooks at the end of its tentacles, which it uses as a defense against predators. It is a slow swimmer.
✦ Vampire Squid (Vampyroteuthis infernalis)
It is about 1 foot (11 inches) long. It does not grow bigger than this. It has eight arms that are connected with webbed skin, giving it a cloak-like appearance. The inside of this cloak is black in color, whereas the squid's skin varies from black to light red. Its eyes appear red or blue depending on the amount of light around. Its appearance has given it this name.
✦ Humboldt Squid (Dosidicus gigas)
It can reach lengths of up to 5 feet (1.5 meters). It can change the color of its body due to the presence of bioluminescent photophores. It is known to display aggression towards humans during feeding. It rapidly changes its body color to red and white while hunting. This is why it is known as diablo rojo, Spanish for red devil.
✦ Japanese Flying Squid (Todarodes pacificus)
Like other species, this one also has two tentacles and eight arms that have attached suction cups. It is called the flying squid because it can jump and cover almost 30 meters above the surface of the sea, using aerial movement. This gives it the illusion of flying above the sea.
This creature is known to live in the deep. Different species live at different depths. Squid habitats are most commonly found in the 'epipelagic' and the 'mesopelagic' zones of an ocean, which are the deepest zones. The distribution of the different species is given below.
✦ Giant Squid
It is commonly found in cooler waters near Australia, Newfoundland, New Zealand, and Norway. It is not very commonly found in tropical areas as it prefers cooler climates. It is found at depths between 300 to 1,000 meters below sea level.
✦ Colossal Squid
It is found along the southern parts of New Zealand, South America, Antarctica, and also some areas in Africa. However, the geographical distribution of this species is very limited and small.
✦ Vampire Squid
It is found in relatively warmer waters along tropical regions. It lives at such depths where the darkness and its color help it to camouflage itself from predators.
✦ Humboldt Squid
It gets its name from the Humboldt current because it is primarily found there. This current exists in the Pacific Ocean. This squid has also been sighted near California, Alaska, and Oregon. As it swims at great depths, finding one is not very easy and takes some time and patience.
✦ Japanese Flying Squid
It prefers cooler waters, and hence, it is found in the north of the Pacific along China and Russia. It is also found in parts of Canada and Alaska, and all along the Bering Strait.
The giant squid is known to eat fish that are medium-sized, as well as smaller squid species if sufficient fish are not available. The colossal squid eats large fish. The Humboldt squid prefers krill and smaller fish, though it may very rarely eat the smaller members of its shoal in case of lack of food. The vampire squid eats invertebrates that are relatively small in size. However, not much study has been done on this. The flying squid has eating habits similar to that of the Humboldt. Thus, overall, squid eat fish according to their sizes and may also eat other squid if there is a scarcity of food.
Females lay eggs in the water after mating. The processes are different for the different types; however, not much is known about them due to the depths at which these creatures live. The flying squid migrates for mating, which takes place at the end of its life. The female lays about 4000 eggs at a time. All the species lay their eggs deep in the ocean, in hidden locations, which make them difficult to find.
Squid generally grow very fast, and their life expectancy is quite short as well. It does not exceed 3 years in most cases. There are a number of legends and stories about the giant squid in particular, and most of these portray it in a negative manner. The reason for this can be attributed to their strange appearance and large sizes, which must have scared human beings before they could properly study them.
Other Interesting Facts
- It is widely believed that squid are the invertebrates with the most amount of intelligence.
- They also have the ability to adapt to any kind of environmental conditions around them.
- They are extremely active in nature, and are always on the move and heading somewhere.
- All squid have three hearts.
- They are cold-blooded creatures.
- They are a popular source of food for humans. Calamari is a famous dish prepared from squid.
- They are largely consumed by the sperm whale and form a great part of its diet
- They are known to put up a tough fight with the sperm whales while defending themselves, scarring the whales in the process.
Facts gathered over centuries by marine biologists have shown that squid are essential to the ecosystem, which exist in the ocean and have a specific role to play in it. They are an important part of this system, and like all other creatures, they are simply trying their best to survive.