Friday Cephalopod: Kleptopirates of the deep!

This is a sad, wounded, immature giant squid dying in a harbor in Spain.

It was wounded by fellow giant squid, bigger than she was, and hungry.

Off of northern Spain, giant squid often feed on schools of fish called blue whiting. The schools swim 400 meters or less below the surface, while the squid prefer to hang out around a mile deep. The squid must ascend to hunt, probably seizing fish from below with their tentacles, then descend again. In this scenario, a squid could save energy by pirating food from its neighbor rather than hunting its own fish, Guerra says: If the target squid has already carried its prey back to the depths to eat, the pirate could save itself a trip up to the shallow water. Staying below would also protect a pirate from predators such as dolphins and sperm whales that hang around the fish schools.

If a pirate happened to kill its victim, it would also reduce competition. The scientists think that’s what happened with the Bares squid: Its tentacles were ripped off in the fight over food. “The victim, disoriented and wounded, could enter a warmer mass of water in which the efficiency of their blood decreases markedly,” the authors write in a recent paper in the journal Ecology. “In this way, the victim, almost asphyxiated, would be at the mercy of the marine currents, being dragged toward the coast.”

It’s a squid eat squid world out there.


  1. blf says

    It’s a squid eat squid world out there.

    I’m about to prepare some calamari and “pasta” (well, gnocchi) for dinner, does this mean I’m a Flying Squid Monster?

  2. davidnangle says

    For a minute, I thought I’d be reading about squid cannibalism, but it looks more like a mugging.

    But I’m still wondering what percentage of animals engage in cannibalism, and is it a good indicator of a social structure, or lack thereof?

  3. blf says

    The gnocchi with calamari, drenched in butter, olive oil, assorted herbs, and cheese (but no garlic — I don’t have any!), did indeed fly off the plate. Literally. Apparently, it’s a good idea to make sure the squid is dead, or stunned, or at least nailed down, before serving it. Fortunately, being covered in olive oil and melted butter, it’s so slippery it’s suckers aren’t working, so it hasn’t been able to climb up walls or anything. It currently seems to be hiding behind the drinks cabinet whilst I consider the next move. Flamethrower would probably work, but the collateral damage of incinerated single malt is not worth it.

    This is minor setback, so my reign as the Flying Squid Monster should be intact.

  4. davidnangle says

    blf, had you also drenched your intended victim in garlic, he’d have been so delectable that after his escape, he would have been incapable of resisting eating himself! Problem solved.

  5. Raucous Indignation says

    No, David, that’s not true. Apparently the flesh of the giant squids have a strong unpalatable ammonia smell. What shame too. She would’ve made a huge helping of squid risotto a la Venezia.

  6. Lathari says

    After a quick wikipedia rummage, it seems the unpleasant scent and flavor comes from ammonium chloride solution. In Finland you can get almost anything with salmiakki flavouring, which is ammonium chloride, so i sense a market here.