Sometimes, evolution has a field day. Invertebrates don’t come much wilder than squids, yet most people have only ever heard of the “giant” variety. So strap on a scuba tank, and let’s take a look at eleven equally-amazing cephalopods you might not know about.
1. Cock-Eyed Squid (Histioteuthis sp.)
Most animals are symmetrical. But the eyes of these deep-sea invertebrates are almost comically disproportionate: the left is usually over twice as big as the right and bulges out of the squid's head.
2. Humboldt Squid (Dosidicus gigas)
Several unwary fishermen and divers have been attacked over the years off the shores of southwestern North America by 6-foot, multi-armed predators nicknamed “red devils.” In recent decades, they’ve starred in an onslaught of sensationalist basic cable documentaries with titles like Man-Eating Super Squid. Despite this publicity, it’s inaccurate to merely write off Dosidicus gigas as a “killing machine” and the creatures are now hugely important to marine conservation efforts.
3. Glass Squid (Family: Cranchiidae)
Tentacled and nearly transparent, it’s incredible to think that life on our own planet can look so alien. Stranger still are the organs known as photophores which emit tiny patches of light on some species as they navigate the inky depths.
4. Bigfin Squid (Magnapinna sp.)
If you thought the last entry looked like something out of a Steven Spielberg flick, check out the eerie footage above, captured by the crew of an oil drill back in 2007. It was filmed a mile and a half below the surface and features a member of the rarely-seen Magnapinna genus noted for having bent “elbows” on each arm.
5. Colossal Squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni)
No it’s not the giant squid (Architeuthis sp.). It’s even bigger… at least mass-wise. Although some internet sources have grossly overestimated the colossal squid’s length, adult specimens can weigh in at half a ton and boast the largest eyes in the animal kingdom. And oh yeah, their tentacles come with swiveling hooks for good measure.
6. Bush-Club Squid (Grimalditeuthis bonplandi)
This one scores points in the “sneakiness” category. A fairly large squid, the Bush-Club is named for a pair of long, skinny tentacles with fish-shaped bulbs on each tip. These are held far away from the body and seem to move on their own, doubtlessly attracting hapless prey in the process.
7. Grimaldi Scaled Squid (Lepidoteuthis grimaldii)
Cephalopods and Monacan royalty might sound like an odd pairing. But Prince Albert I was an amateur teuthologist (squid scientist) whose hobbies included sifting through the “precious regurgitations” of sperm whales for specimens. The distinctive “scales” which cover much of this species’ flesh caught his eye and it was later named for the elite house of Grimaldi to which he belonged.
8. Whiplash Squid (Family: Mastigoteuthidae)
Thousands of tiny suckers give a pair of slender feeding tentacles a flypaper-like consistency with which a member of this genus may snag its next meal (usually a sand-dwelling crustacean).
9. Market Squid (Doryteuthis opalescens)
True, its common name isn’t particularly exciting. But apart from being widely used as calamari, the market squid is turning heads because of its remarkable color-changing ability that’s inspired engineers to investigate technological adaptations. However, Doryteuthis opalescens is just one of several cephalopods that can blend into its environment so effectively.
10. Japanese Flying Squid (Todarodes pacificus)
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a… squid? The Japanese flying squid launches itself into the air and can glide over a distance of 65 feet thanks to an incredible water-based jet propulsion system.
11. Octopoteuthis deletron
In lieu of vertebrate sex organs, cephalopod mating usually involves males latching sperm packets onto the sides of their partners, to be fertilized later. But because their vision is impaired by living so far below the reach of sunlight, Octopoteuthis can’t always discern which gender is which. As one researcher put it, males therefore “routinely and indiscriminately mates with both [sexes]”, hoping at least a few of them will have been females.