LIFE LINES LIFE LINES LIFE LINES deep Antarctica's Southern Ocean is The deadly coldsquid. ofto find Mesonychoteuthis hamilwhere you must look toni, the colossal Weighing in at around 500 kg, it naling lamps. For example, the Hawaiian bobtail squid (Euprymna scolopes) has teamed up with the bacmakes the slightly longer giant squid (Architeuthis dux), terium Vibrio fischeri, and at night produces a soft glow that which may only pack around 300 kg into its 13-m "tip-to- allows it to blend in with the moonlight filtering down toe" length, look like a runt. The colossal squid's arms and from above, making it invisible to predators and prey club-ended tentacles are equipped with hooks that dig into below. It is the tiny odd bobtail squid, Heteroteuthis dispar, its prey. Those on the tentacles can even swivel through however, that has taken bacterial lighting to spectacular 360°; when the colossal squid grabs something, it doesn't limits. When scared, it can squirt bacteria-lit mucus out of mean to let go. Yet even this largest of all invertebrates its siphon, producing a screen of defensive bioluminesfalls prey to marauding sperm whales. It therefore needs a cence akin to a luminous ink cloud. defense and, just like any other squid, it produces ink. So what about the colossal squid's ink? Is it really lumiAnyone who has been "inked" by a cephalopod can tell nescent? Well, maybe not. "[This is] speculation, and not you what a good defense it based on anatomical eviis; you are blinded for no dence", admits Bruce Marmore than an instant, yet shall, Mollusc Collection the animal is gone. But what Manager at the Museum of good is dark ink in the black New Zealand. "[If it has] depths of the sea? Some luminescent ink, it might be cephalopods may produce used to confuse predators in ink that acts as a chemical the darkness of the deep sea." deterrent against certain But sperm whales hunt by predators, but the evidence sonar; how a glowing inky hardly extends to all species. cloud could help a squid Might the colossal squid that's been pinpointed by a therefore produce some sound wave is not entirely form of luminescent ink clear. that shines in the darkness, Hold back that disappointleaving its predators blinded ment, though, for M hamilby the light? Such a propostoni does come with a bioal has been put forth by the A firefly squid lighting up the sea. luminescent surprise. Its forMuseum of New Zealand in ward-facing, beachball-size its Colossal Squid Exhibition, where the largest M hamil- eyes the largest in all the animal kingdom each contoni ever captured remains on display until August of this tain a (possibly) bacteria-driven light organ several cenyear (see http://squid.tepapa.govt.nz/exhibition). timeters long, a discovery made during an examination The idea is not as wacky as it might at first sound. About of the exhibition's 495-kg prize specimen. It's speculated two-thirds of all squid genera have bioluminescent mem- that these organs might light up those huge eyes like bers. Some produce light from specialized groups of cells glowing orbs, the beams illuminating prey as if in a arranged around their bodies. Those of the 7-cm-long fire- car's headlights. If true, coming face to face with such a fly squid Watasenia scintillans shine so brightly that they behemoth, its glowing optics focused on you and its produce a dazzling display of mating season marine fire- hooked tentacles ready to strike, must be among the works. Every spring, Japanese fishermen set off in search of greatest terrors of the abyss. the amorous creatures in Toyama Bay, their nets lighting Regular squid ink can, of course, take on an importance up in a darting neon-blue spectacle as the squid are hauled beyond that of a cephalopod's defense. Where I live, in in. The much larger Dana octopus squid (Taningia danae) Spain, it's used to make chipirones en su tinta squid in has similar photophores but 5 cm or so in length and their own ink. Squid caps are stuffed with chopped eggs, has been filmed flashing light to apparently blind its prey ham, and breadcrumbs, or even pâté, and, after browning and maybe to attract mates. The deep-sea vampire squid, in olive oil, are cooked in a thick onion, tomato, red pepVampyroteuthis infernalis, also uses light organs on the tips per, carrot, wine, and garlic sauce, all tinted deep black of its arms, perhaps to distract predators away from its with squid ink. It's delicious although the first time you body. They can even release a light-emitting cloud into see the dish the ink can still repel you. Epicureans, howevthe water if their owner becomes particularly alarmed. er, may want to imagine how a glowing plate of squid Other species make use of symbiotic bioluminescent bacte- served in its own luminescence might look! Adrian Burton rial colonies that can be covered and uncovered like sig© 2012 D Fenoli/www.anotheca.com www.frontiersinecology.org © The Ecological Society of America
Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment – Ecological Society of America
Published: Mar 1, 2013
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