The beak of the Humboldt squid is both hard and soft, according to new research. Because squid are squishy and the beak is hard, the squid use a materials gradient to ensure that they can bite without the beak tearing off. Mark Powell writes most lovingly of the squid beak as a metaphor for modern masculinity, but what I want to know is “Where do I get my bloody squid-proof armor??!!”
Humboldt squid, with their fancy-pants materials gradient beak, are among the most fearsome predators in the sea. They get up to 7 feet and 100 pounds, and are able to engage in cooperative hunting and cannabalistic feeding frenzies with equal joie de vivre. One man, commercial diver Scott Cassell, claims that the Humboldt squid are just like Soylent Green – they’re made of people! He says:
I’ve interviewed many people who have been attacked by these squids. There are also stories of disappearances, always unexplained, around the Humboldt squid. Always fishermen.
That’s why Cassell has created squid-proof armor.
These precautions [for diving with the squid] included: anti-squid armor suits; armor plating for the vulnerable parts of my mixed-gas rebreather; anti-squid cage; and back-to-back diving techniques. To prevent being pulled down by a pack of squid, steel cables connected divers to the boat at all times. If these measures sound extreme, I can assure you they weren’t. Each one came into play and proved to be completely necessary.
Here’s Cassell’s full account of Squidly Fear, with photos.
Most cephalopod researchers think Cassell is a bit nuts, since nobody else has any evidence of people being attacked by killer squid. (People do get grabbed if they chum up the squid into a frenzy and then jump into the water, but this isn’t a situation most sane people encounter.) I don’t care – I want squid-proof armor! The squid will be my allies in the mighty battle against the fearsome many-armed sea star Pycnopodia!
Of course, being slandered is not the worse mishap that can happen to a squid. Accidentally injecting oneself with one’s own ejaculate just can’t be comfortable.
Thanks to Serin & Eric(h) for the squid beak link!