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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sea Things #17: Caribbean Reef Squid

Sea Things is a regular feature on my blog where I profile a different sea creature. Look for it weekly, or something close to weekly.

Caribbean Reef Squid or Sepioteuthis sepioidea! I love these guys. They are perhaps my very favorite Sea Thing to see underwater. The diver hand signal for them is to cross your arm in front of you, fingers & thumb open, then close your fingers/thumb while moving your arm, kind of like a squid moves. You kind of have to see it, it's hard to describe, I guess.

Squids are so intelligent and interesting. They are usually found in schools (yes, it's school of squid). They're not very big compared to other squid - usually about 8 inches long in their bodies, and they have tentacles in front around their beak. They also have fins that just move constantly, and remind me of a hummingbird's wings. They eat small fish & mollusks.

I first became a fan of squid when I watched a documentary about squid research with Todd just a few months before I became certified. The documentary was filmed in Bonaire, and it came on again several months after I was certified, and that was that - I wanted to go to Bonaire. I wanted to see squid. I try not to eat them, and what I mean by that is that I think they're cute and fun and I don't want to eat them for that reason, but they're not threatened and I really like calamari, so I do eat squid occasionally.

The documentary that I saw was about squid and how they communicate. Caribbean Reef Squid change color frequently. They do this for communication, and I find it really, really fascinating. Sometimes, color change is about courting and mating, sometimes it's about territory, etc. We had an opportunity to get very close to a squid in July 2007. We were on the Jigsaw dive site in Little Cayman, and there was a squid all by itself (unusual), that let us get within a foot of it. I was eye to eye with the little guy, and he was lighting up and changing color all over the place. Truly amazing.
Most of the time when you encounter schools of squid, they avoid you. They'll hang out some, and we've seen over twenty together in a school, but they will keep their distance. If you move a foot closer, they will move a foot farther away. And they'll all move in unison. What I do is keep my bubbles small and calm, and I move at a very slow pace towards them, and sometimes you can have some amazing encounters. It really infuriates me when another diver in the group swims up on them fast and scare them away. Squid move at an amazing speed and will be gone in a second if they're not approached cautiously.

Caribbean Reef Squid are found all over the Caribbean, and we've seen them pretty much everywhere we've been. We have had the closest encounters in Bonaire and Little Cayman, though.

Is there a creature that you would like to see featured in Sea Things? If so, shoot me an email and if I can, I'll write about it. Photos on this post are courtesy of Todd Krebs.

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