In an effort to confirm or deny anecdotes surrounding flying squid, Japanese researchers discovered more than they bargained for.
They already were equipped with a moniker befitting a family of trapeze artists — neon flying squid — and, as Japanese scientists have confirmed, these 8-inch long creatures can also soar with the greatest of ease.
Led by Jun Yamamoto, researchers from Hokkaido University decided to indulge their curiosity about seafarers' reports of flying Todarodes pacificus, a member of the flying squid family. They tracked the cephalopods off the coast of Tokyo. (Cephalopods are any mollusk, or soft-bodied invertebrate, of the class Cephalopoda that have tentacles attached to the head.)
About 370 miles east of the city, they spied a large shoal of the mollusks. When their boat neared the group, the squid startled and leapt from the ocean, releasing a forceful stream of water from their bodies to propel themselves into the air.
The team was able to determine that in the approximately three seconds, the squid were out of the water and managed to fly almost 100 feet.
This was the first time that scientists have been able to observe and deconstruct the mechanism for this behavior.
From the team's report, published in the German journal Marine Biology, "Once they finish shooting out the water, they glide by spreading out their fins and arms.
"The fins and the web between the arms create aerodynamic lift and keep the squid stable on its flight arc.
"As they land back in the water, the fins are all folded back into place to minimize the impact."
Although Yamamoto surmises that the flight behavior is triggered in avoidance of ocean predators, it then opens the neon flying squid up to being eaten by sea birds.
The documentation of the neon flying squids' behavior comes on the heels of another first by Japanese researchers: photos of the giant squid Architeuthis (which grows up to almost 33 feet) in its deep sea habitat.
One can only hope, for the sake of anyone traveling on the seas that the two discoveries never culminate in a giant flying squid pairing.
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