Friday Cephalopod: Mommy, what are those two squid doing?

“Well, Johnny, when a mommy squid and a daddy squid love each other very much…”

“But Mommy, did that one just bite the other one? And are those little bits of squid in the water?”

Holy Mother of God, Johnny, don’t look! Don’t look! They’re eating each other!”

“Yes, they are, Mommy, and there is no god.”


  1. dick says

    Why would a loving god create creatures that behaved like this?

    The best answers I’m aware of is that some guy named Adam ate the fruit of a magical tree, causing the “fall”, & therefore suffering & evil, or, this is the best of all possible worlds.

    If there were a god, then it’d be a sadistic monster, &/or totally incompetent.

  2. dick says

    This species of squid only mate once, apparently. So if the ones that haven’t mated dine on those that have, that would make good evolutionary sense.

    It might be possible that this could be confirmed or refuted, I imagine.

    I guess that there are other scenarios where cannibalism could be favoured by natural selection.

  3. dick says

    Cannibalism could lead to speciation, I imagine. Aggressive squid versus timid squid. I don’t know if their mating behaviour would support this.

  4. dick says

    I note the different colouration, but I thought the text implied that different species are cannibalistic. I’ll go read it again.

  5. dick says

    Hoving and his colleagues sent down subs to observe two species of the Gonatus genus of squid in an underwater canyon of Monterey Bay, off the coast of California. The squid span much of the water column, from shallow waters to more than 2000 metres down.

    The subs frequently saw both species eating their own kind, especially Gonatus onyx. “Up to 40 per cent of the animals examined were feeding on animals of the same species,” says Hoving. “That was quite high – that was surprising.”

    Err, I know that you’re the expert, PZ, but I stand by what I wrote. (My workload doesn’t begin to compare with yours.)

  6. Crudely Wrott, lurching towards recrudescence says

    From the linked article:

    To get the most accurate picture of the elusive animals’ behaviour, you have to combine observations from subs with other methods such as netting

    Given that both means of observation cause unnatural stress that results in cannibalism why is that behavior deemed natural or stress induced? What is the difference, in terms of stress induced behavior, between bright lights and the strange sonic intrusion from a hovering ROV and being caught in a net? Are there other levels of stress that might elicit other behaviors? Is it possible that the squid do this when not observed or disturbed?

    Is this natural behavior that would take place without regard to unusual intrusion? I am left as ignorant of cephalopod behavior as I was before I read this post. I think that I am not alone in wondering about this.

  7. Crudely Wrott, lurching towards recrudescence says

    Ah! Not the same specie. Failure to fully read on my part. I’ll take my questions home and come back when I’m better informed. Assuming that will happen.

  8. WhiteHatLurker says

    “Of course they’re going to kill each other.” Why can’t they all just live in peace?

    @dick #6
    And the image file name is “CannibalSquid” – it all tends to pull one in the direction that these are cannibals. Nasty little squidzezes.

    @Crudely #8:
    “Up to 40 per cent of the animals examined were feeding on animals of the same species,” I think you nailed it.

    I like the line:
    “They eat just about whatever they can get their tentacles on.”

  9. wzrd1 says

    Heh, at an early age, our children watched a specific species of spider mate, during out of our always enjoyed evening watching of a documentary film.
    The specific species in question tried its level best to eat the male after mating.
    A very similar conversation ensued, “some species actually want or even need to eat their mate to ensure the survival of the species. Later in life, you may hear of a similar thing in humans, it’s entirely different and you’ll understand it entirely when you’re of that peer group’s age. We’ll be available to discuss that difference.”

    Yes, a very real conversation.
    Later, a rather explicit conversation, after puberty and certain desires were apparent.
    Self-control was always taught, save in a situation where one is attacked.
    But then, we had two girls, at risk in our society. So, in our rape society, they were taught, he attacks you in that way, beat him into jelly until the police pull you off and you let the ambulance take him away.
    We also drummed in moderation, to conflict that lesson to sanity.
    One young man, who dated her briefly, turned out to be a serial rapist. It later caught up to him, glancingly, due to political pressures of a well heeled daddy buying the county.
    When he tried to rape her next to the soda machine, she beat the crap out of him, then left him, against my previous instructions, good deal, as otherwise, she’d have caused serious harm.
    And no, I didn’t teach her martial arts at that age.
    She ended up suspended from school, as being raped is OK in our failed nation.
    We pulled our other daughter from school and took both to the zoo. Of course, fully informing the school of that fact and that I wanted a meeting with the superintendent of schools, right after I had a meeting with the school principal.
    The school principal being one of my former guidance counselors.
    I explained to the latter and later, the former, that their safety was directly dependent upon the safety of our daughters and that anything that happened to them, would happen to their own persons.
    The superintendent remembered me from his LEP group. The former counselor as well.
    Both paled, they remembered mom, who actually jacked up a school administrator, who was outright wrong, literally.
    I simply left it to their fears.

    In reality, I’d have initiated groundbreaking litigation to remove all finances from an entire community for an entire decade. Which would include the families involved with both individuals.
    At the current political time, political indentured servitude was being suggested, serving an additional risk.

    At the time, I was still trying to imagine a punitive punishment for a rapist of my own daughter, within the grounds of our current enforcement of our Constitution.
    Giving all considerations due thought, the history as well and the known and investigated law currently extant, I was at a quandary.
    A judicial duel is lawful within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but unlikely, causing harm after the fact, utterly unlawful.
    Hence, obviously, interrupting the potential is the preferred course.
    Hence, my, erm, suggestion. Leave them guessing. They’re bright, they’re imaginative, leave it to their own imagination.
    In a failure, seek imaginative grounds to seek the entire national debt from an entire county. Use a significant amount of that money for a propaganda effort against the *entire* political leadership of said county, insulating the state.
    If things go sideways, spread it state wide.
    At that point, I’ve nothing to lose, plenty of vengeance to gain.

    And yes, I do acknowledge a character flaw. I am a very, very, very vindictive man.
    But, if proved wrong after targeting, would turn that targeting inward, rightfully.

    It’s something rather old and currently abused, it’s called honor. Doing that which is right for one and all, protecting one’s society when it’s in the right. Never supporting one’s society when it’s wrong, but forcing change.

    Needless to say, neither individual actually figured me out and collapsed and eventually gave the little privileged SOB in school suspension.
    They accepted our zoo trip, etc. For credits.
    The young man, two later rapes, much delayed, based upon his previous course and he was forced to marry his last rape victim.
    I’m not fond of the latter. :/
    But, we’re in an imperfect world, imperfect solutions abide.
    And while I mourn nobody not being hurt, fewer were injured in any way.

    Does anyone have a superior solution?

  10. naturalcynic says

    A simple question: Is it still cannibalism if two closely related species are involved?
    Humans killing gorillas for bush meat is then cannibalism? or is it just horribly unethical

    And then I am reminded of Valentine Michael Smith …