From zero-sized to giant-sized, or techies: 0, nature: 1

by Yule Heibel on July 1, 2005

Maria and Shelley have been pondering squid — see Maria’s Just Squidding for the full version — and initially I was really confused. Squid?

I was thinking of the real thing, while they were referring to a Technorati application that’s showing us bloggers as zero-sized. Ok, I get the squid references now, but after commenting on Maria’s entry earlier today about why I was confused in the first place, it occured to me that I should share this on my own blog, too.

…Cue the creepy music:

British Columbia’s coastal waters are really and actually being invaded by giant squid. A week or so ago, I saw a report in the news that ocean scientists are expecting to see full-grown Humboldt Squid later this summer, after last fall’s invasion of juvenile Humboldts. No Humbug. Humboldt.

Rooting around for webarticles (while commenting at Maria’s — I mean, she has a classy group over there, and I don’t want them to think I’m making this up out of whole cloth, right?) I found Squidblog, whose author today posted the very entry I was looking for. Squidblog quotes at length from a June 30 article by Ethan Baron, which appeared in The Province (but will surely fade behind a user-pay wall very quickly):

Forget War of the Worlds and its sci-fi aliens. There are much scarier creatures right here on Earth, possibly on their way up to B.C. at this very moment. Tom Cruise won’t save you from the killer squid.

Their 10 tentacles, covered with suction cups full of teeth, can reach out three metres, dragging hapless prey toward razor-sharp, parrot-like mouth-beaks.

Underwater photographers who film Humboldt squid wear chain-mail suits.

“They’re 100 per cent pre-dator,” said Jim Cosgrove, natural history manager at the Royal B.C. Museum.

“If you were attacked by a number of them, you could most certainly get injured.”

In Mexico, the Humboldt squid is el diablo rojo, the red devil. Mexico has a thriving fishery that provides meat from the squid to Japan. But every once in a while, a squid fisherman disappears without a trace.

In B.C., the killer squid first showed up last fall, by the thousands, their appearance linked to ocean warming.

Now, with ocean temperatures expected to be at least as warm as last year’s, scientists are waiting to see if the creatures will appear again.

And though beachgoers have little to fear from these predators who rise from the depths to hunt at night, woe betide the boater who goes overboard in darkness.

“That certainly could be a problem if you were somewhere where you were in the water and the squid were around,” Cosgrove said. “It’s a pretty formidable animal.” [More…]


It somehow isn’t comforting to realise that the Humboldt Squid is not the largest in Northwest Pacific waters. As another quirky site I came across in my virtual squid hunting points out:

The Humboldt squid is smaller than two other giant squid that can be found in B.C. waters. The North Pacific giant squid, Moroteuthis robusta, live in the Bering Sea, the North Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Alaska can grow up to 270 kg and span 10 m. Even larger is the giant squid, Architeuthis dux, which can grow to 17.7 m and weigh 880 kg. [From The Book of Thoth…]

Why is there little comfort in this? Because if the squids were characters in a horror flick, the Humboldt Squid would probably be the unpredictable psychopath. As Collision Detection (another tentacle along the search) points out, “There are few occasions upon which newspapers bring out prose more purple than when they attempt to describe killer squid.” On May 8, 2005, Collision Detection quotes from The Globe and Mail (disappeared behind subscription walls now), on the occasion of a Humboldt Squid being captured alive by a Vancouver Island fisherman:

Some descriptions from witnesses sound like the plot to a horror movie — water roiling with tentacles; otherworldly creatures suddenly launching into the air from beneath the surface; nightfall bringing to the surface vicious predators that slip back into the depths at daybreak, like vampires of the sea.

A Humboldt squid can grow to the size and weight of a hockey player. So, imagine Todd Bertuzzi with bulging eyes, eight arms, two tentacles, three hearts, a beak for a mouth, a brain wrapped around his esophagus and gullet with a willingness — nay, eagerness — to dine on his own kind every other meal, and you get a sense of how the squid has earned such a fearsome reputation. [More…]

These guys can “fly”…?

I’ll let an invertebrate curator from Victoria’s own Royal British Columbia Museum have the last word:

Squids use jet propulsion to attain great speeds when chasing prey or fleeing from predators. Water is drawn into the body and rapidly forced out by muscular contraction through a narrow funnel located just behind and below the head. The force of the water rushing out of the funnel propels the squid in the opposite direction, in much the same way that air escaping from a balloon will cause it to fly around a room. The funnel is flexible and can be turned in any direction, allowing the squid to change direction without turning its body.

Using this method of propulsion, some species are capable of tremendous bursts of speed. When fleeing from a predator, the Pacific Flying Squid swims fast enough to shoot out of the water and glide through the air for many metres. [From Captain Nemo’s Nemesis]

Sushi will never look the same again…


melanie July 1, 2005 at 10:41 pm

What wonderful tentacles you have!

I especially enjoyed the coy description of Humboldt’s personal life in Wikipedia.

melanie July 1, 2005 at 10:42 pm

What wonderful tentacles you have!

I especially enjoyed the coy description of Humboldt’s personal life in Wikipedia.

maria July 2, 2005 at 12:54 am

I really enjoyed going trhough the squid blogs you pointed to … and the funny thing is that originally I was going to use on my the squid graphic you have here at the end of yours

Yule Heibel July 2, 2005 at 2:10 am

Glad you liked the Humboldt reference, Melanie — we have a Humboldt street here (of course — he’s one of the most widely-named-after persons ever — and it’s under intense urban development, so there’s an added layer of meaning to this for me, too: the octopus of urban development, so to speak!

Maria: great minds think alike, even if it’s “just” comics! (Not that comics are ever just that…)

Stu Savory July 2, 2005 at 1:30 pm

Humboldt had a lot of disappointing joureys.
To put it colloquially they were bum trips 😉

Yule Heibel July 2, 2005 at 2:53 pm

Ooh, jokes like that are gonna get you inked, Stu!

Anonymous September 17, 2005 at 5:20 pm

Your site is realy very interesting.

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