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How squids outsmart their predators - Carly Anne York


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There are about 500 species of squid, and they live in all the world’s oceans, making them a reliable food source for whales, dolphins, sharks, seabirds, fish - and even other squid. As a result, the squid's most extraordinary adaptations are those that have evolved to help them thwart these predators. Carly Anne York explains how these stealthy cephalopods have mastered deep sea survival.

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Squid are a widely diverse group of invertebrate animals with a rich evolutionary history. Although scientists have identified approximately 500 squid species worldwide, there is still much to learn about these elusive creatures. It is crucial to better understand this group of animals because of their unique biology, as well as their integral role in the marine food web. Squid are prey items for many animals, including fish, cetaceans, and seabirds, but squid themselves are also predators, preying on smaller fish and crustaceans. This makes squids a crucial intermediary in the marine food web. Although there are no species on record that are currently endangered, the human demand for calamari makes them a prime target for potential over-exploitation by the fishing industry. Aside from over-fishing, they are also subject to habitat degradation through ocean pollution, such as chemicals, oils and plastics. Given the essential role of squid in marine food webs, their conservation status should be continually monitored.

The giant squid (Architeuthis dux) has been of particular interest to researchers and to the public because of its large size and folklore. Until recently, the giant squid had never been filmed alive in its habitat. However, researchers recently caught it on video during a deep-sea excursion. Oceanographer Edith Widder shares how her team finally found and filmed the giant squid in her Ted Talk.

While the search to understand the giant squid is truly fascinating, many research teams are working on understanding the biomechanics and physiology through smaller squid species. The Bartol Lab at Old Dominion University collaborates with engineers on NSF-funded projects aimed at understanding the muscle physiology and fluid mechanics of squid swimming. This data helps researchers understand how squid can efficiently maneuver, given their unique ways of swimming via jet propulsion. The Mooney Lab at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is investigating bioacoustics in squid, as well as the physiological impacts of climate change and ocean acidification. The Hanlon Lab at Marine Biological Laboratory has been at the forefront of research on squid behavior, particularly their extraordinary camouflaging abilities. This cutting-edge research will help scientists grow in their understanding of these fascinating invertebrates.

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator Carly Anne York
  • Director Jérémie Balais, Reza Riahi
  • Script Editor Emma Bryce
  • Animator Jérémie Balais, Reza Riahi
  • Sound Designer Raphaël Pibarot
  • Composer Raphaël Pibarot
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott, Elizabeth Cox
  • Content Producer Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • Fact-Checker Francisco Diez

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