Monday, February 27, 2012

Flying Squid: researchers study a potentially more efficient method of travel during migration

Now here's an odd bit of news.

Recent research presented at the 2012 Ocean Sciences Meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, indicated that some species of squid could be using flying as a more efficient method of traveling long distances, like in seasonal migrations.

Oh, sure, squid can "fly" underwater using their siphon like a jet engine and the two fins framing the squid's mantle acting like wings. Sure, we've all seen that.

No. I'm talking airborne.

A team of researchers from Dalhousie University, Canada, and Stanford University, studied three species of squid and tracked the small orange-black squid leaping into the air off the coast of Brazil. Going airborne has long been recognized as a method that some squid will use to evade a predator. But what the researchers saw was repeated bursts into the air at a speed of fives time what the squid can achieve underwater. The theory is that to more efficiently use available energy as the squid continues through its long migration, it will choose to go airborne from time to time.

“As soon as we thought about the possibility that these things flew, it became plausible that these animals actually use flight as a way of reducing energy cost,” said Dalhousie University marine biologist Ronald O'Dor.

Other researchers tracked species like the Humboldt squid and found them covering distances greater than what their underwater speed suggested. Could they, too, be taking the occasional aerial stroll?

No one is suggesting extended flight; the squid has no way to sustain its flight through the air. However, with its powerful siphon capable of generating a sudden underwater thrust of jet propulsion, the idea of airborne squid is not that far-fetched of an idea. And it has been hypothesized that the squid's swimming fins have enough size and shape to act as ailerons, providing some measure of stability while aloft.

Not all scientists are convinced but they do find it tantalizing and are hoping for more research in the future to make a determination one way or another. For now, it's an interesting solution to the squid's ability to cover long distances.

Next it will be pigs.

NTD Television
Source: 2012 Ocean Sciences Meeting - abstract

No comments: