Monday, 7 May 2007

Giant Squids Shoot Up

Living in harsh environments such as hot deserts, deep seas and high mountains means that potential mates are few and far between so when you encounter another member of your species, you have to grab the opportunity. The Giant Squid (Architeuthis) is one such animal. It lives in dark deep depths 1000m below the ocean surface. These tentacled creatures meet rarely and are even more rarely observed by humans.

These giants beasts can reach lengths of 15m (45ft) and the male delivers his load by means of a 1m (3ft) long muscular, prehensile penis. But instead of making the delivery in a conventional fashion, he actually stabs the female with his appendage and deposits sperm into the wound. A female giant squid captured off of Australia’s southern coast had sperm embedded in her arms.

This allows the female to store the sperm for long periods, a useful option since encounters with males are infrequent at these great depths. It is not clear how the female uses the sperm when she is ready to fertilize her eggs. Perhaps she reopens the wound to retrieve the souvenir he left behind or maybe hormonal cues cause sperm migrates to the surface.

A male giant squid caught off Norway in the 1950s also had sperm embedded in his skin. This seems odd but when you are a lonely animal living in a vast, empty world you have take action when a the opportunity presents itself. Shoot first, ask questions later.

40 comments:

Brian said...

That's so cool. I wish I had thought of this story first for my blog (I'll probably say that to myself every week).

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