Observation of the Week 4/27/16

This pair of Lesser Flying Squid seen by aunty and photographed by Robert Atkinson off the Kermadec Islands is the Observation of the Week.

The Kermadec Islands are a remote archipelago about 800 km northeast of New Zealand’s North Island, and last year they became part of the newly-declared Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, a 620,000 square km area protected by New Zealand. Katy Johns (@aunty on iNat) was lucky enough to go on an expedition there last month by Forest and Bird, an independent conservation organization in New Zealand, “as part of a campaign to bring attention to the area,” says Katy. “The sanctuary will protect a significant portion of the world’s longest underwater volcanic chain and the world’s second deepest ocean trench.”

It was during this expedition that she and others witnessed the surreal sight of squid taking to the air. According to Katy, “They didn't fly very high above the sea - maybe a foot or so for about 10 yards,” but “it was quite a magical sight as twenty or more would all jump out together.” The picture above was taken by photographer Robert Atkinson, from whom she obtained permission to use it for her iNat observation.

Very few details about Lesser flying squid can be found online, and I couldn’t come up with anything regarding their “flying” behavior, aside from the fact they are the only known flying mollusk (thank you, @susanhewitt!). The species ranges widely throughout the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and out to the east of Australia and New Zealand, and averages between 13-22 cm in length.

As for Katy, a background in botany and a lifelong interest in nature has lead to her being the secretary of a local hiking club. She describes herself as a “keen iNaturalist contributor” and “[I] always take my camera with me these days as I travel in my job and often get to take a walk in a new area during the day.” Creating and sharing observations during her travels has “helped me to learn about environments all over the world. I think it's a fantastic resource for all kinds of research and education.”

- by Tony Iwane

- both Katy and I have reached out to Robert Atkinson about his photo and his thoughts on the squid sighting but haven’t heard back. I’ll update this post if and when he replies.

- Two quick encounters with flying squid captured on video (thank you GoPro!).

- Is some calamari actually pig intestine? A classic This American Life episode investigates...

Posted by tiwane tiwane, April 27, 2016 21:38



A magnificent observation! There is actually an entire family of "flying squids," the Ommastrephidae, including jumbo flying squid, neon flying squid, etc. While flight in the lesser flying squid has not been explicitly studied to my knowledge, it's likely very similar to flight in other ommastrephids. Two papers were published in 2013 on the phenomenon of squid flight, "Oceanic squid do fly" (Muramatsu et al.) and "Squid rocket science: how squid launch into the air" (O'Dor et al.). Here's some press that covers the (astounding) basics:


Posted by cephalopodiatrist over 4 years ago (Flag)
Posted by tiwane over 4 years ago (Flag)

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