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Scientists Unravel Mystery of Flying Squid

By Valarie Chapman

We have only studied a small portion of the world’s oceans – leaving us plenty of room for surprises.  In one great recent surprise, researchers at Hokkaido University have proven that a species of squid can fly (published in the journal Marine Biology).

There were rumors and witnesses of these flying squid, but until now, nobody had proven how a squid can fly.

flying squid
Flying squid caught on camera. Photo: Hokkaido University

How do these squid go from swimming to flying?  Four phases of flight are described in the research: launching, jetting, gliding and diving.

While swimming, the squid open up their mantle and draw in water.  Then these squid launch themselves into the air with a high-powered blast of the water from their bodies.  Once launched by this jet propulsion, these squid spread out both their fins and their tentacles to form wings.  The squid have a membrane between their tentacles similar to the webbed toes of a frog.  This helps them use their tentacles as a wing and create aerodynamic lift so they can glide – similar to a well-made paper airplane.

These squid glide at up to 11.2 meters per second.  To put that into perspective, Jamaican runner Usain Bolt won the gold medal in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games at 10.31 meters per second.  The squid can remain airborne for about 3 seconds and cover upwards of 30 meters (98 feet) per flight.

While in flight, these squid do not simply glide passively.  They actively change their posture based on their distance from the water and phase of flight.  After gliding above the water, the squid fold their fins and tentacles back in to minimize impact and dive into the ocean.

Groups of over 20 squid have been recorded flying together.  It is believed that they fly to escape predators in the water – a tactic used by the flying fish.  While this is great for avoiding ocean predators, this might make the squid easier prey for new predators such as sea birds.  There is still plenty to learn about these fascinating creatures, but one thing is for certain: We can no longer consider squid to be just creatures of the sea, but now the air as well.

Comments

  1. Anthony
    United States
    June 18, 4:46 pm

    Matthias Urlichs, their significant digits are straight. The author doesn’t give information whether the “0″ in 30 is part of significant digits or not. Zeroes following the three would be significant only if they are behind a decimal point. Otherwise, there’s no way to tell. It is not clear if the zeroes are significant or not.

    You could, instead, point out that the author didn’t use scientific notation and that may create confusion. But, this story doesn’t call for scientific notation since it’s simply giving an idea of how far the squid can go when they remain airborne. 30 meters = 98 feet

  2. JEN Garrett
    June 18, 12:25 pm

    Would you believe Darwin believed in Intelligent Design? I’ve read his Origin of a Species.

  3. dean
    south australia
    June 3, 10:20 am

    lol no real difference in any aquatic jumping out as there is to you jumping in, is there?

  4. Matthias Urlichs
    Nürnberg Germany
    May 3, 7:25 pm

    Great article, except for one niggly bit: Could you PLEASE keep your significant digits straight? 30 meters are not “98 feet”, they’re 100 feet if you have one significant digit. Or maybe “close to 100 feet” if you don’t actually know and want to avoid nitpicking. :-P

  5. old news
    May 3, 5:37 pm

    squids are known to fly in minecraft all the time.

    there are hundreds of youtube videos proving that squids possess this ability of flight.

  6. Geoff
    United States
    April 23, 6:32 pm

    UMMM

    “The THEORY of evolution or
    the THEORY of intelligent design.”

    You’re using the same word in two VERY different contexts there.
    Evolution is a “Theory” in exactly the same way GRAVITY is a “Theory”

    Intelligent Design is a theory in exactly the same way that Astrology is a theory

  7. Jesse James
    Saginaw, MI
    April 23, 6:01 pm

    Awsome !!

  8. Zainab Aljawahiri
    London,UK
    April 23, 4:08 pm

    These flying squid are amazing , they are based on proof not fairy tales people .. and why on earth am I reading after every two comments things to do with God / Allah .. ?. Its like the story of the chicken and egg what came first , we would be here forever debating the story and not appreciate whats being put in front of us. Its not often we discover new species :) . Keep the religion and science separate :) .

  9. CC
    United States
    April 23, 12:26 pm

    I’m still trying to figure out how an article about squid devolved into a debate about religion.

  10. Chip
    Overhead
    April 23, 11:53 am

    A lot of postings where people are using big words. Not always but most of the time when big words which are not usually used regularly it means that the person is not very intelligent bt is doing their damnedest to try to appear to be bright and educated.

  11. dani
    April 23, 2:40 am

    Just because you don’t believe in a God or a deity doesn’t mean people who do aren’t as intelligent as you. In fact allowing fear of the unknown to rule any aspect of your life, thought process or anything else makes you impared. Now where would we all be if everyone would have thought the world was flat or the sun revolved around the earth!?!? Either way nothing to do with this article.

  12. tim
    florida
    April 22, 11:16 pm

    You ‘da man! Billy the Man. Nice poem.

  13. Deo antoni D. LLamas
    Philippines
    April 22, 11:08 pm

    There is really no conflict between science and faith.Science simply shows us how God created the life in the universe the process of creative evolution. And the bible showing us who God is. That simple but man tries to complicates things.

  14. Levi P
    maryland
    April 22, 10:21 pm

    Just because you believe in intelligent design doesn’t mean you are religious. evolution may have happened through intelligent design …And maybe we’ve created a God in our own psyche…And if you have a mind that is closed then you are really not a person of science because anything and everything is possible in science look at quantum mechanics, the law of nature don’t come into play at that level!!!! And yes it is quite amazing and beautiful..peace

  15. pielvet
    maine
    April 22, 8:58 pm

    Brought to you by the same just and merciful christian god that brought you smallpox and Lou Gehrig’s disease. One of my favorite merciful gods.

  16. holly
    April 22, 8:08 pm

    The THEORY of evolution or
    the THEORY of intelligent design.

    They are both THEORIES. Believe what you believe and stop being lifeless trolls that search the internet to crush other people’s opinions.

    If someone says, ” isn’t evolution amazing?”
    Or someone else says “God moves in mysterious ways.” You should be able to appreciate other people’s beliefs and opinions without wanting to crush them into a homogenous blob of humanity. It is our differences that make us awesome.

    So thank Poseidon for the squid.

  17. joseph schwartz
    United States
    April 22, 5:43 pm

    Ommastrephes bartramii

  18. Jay
    April 22, 3:34 pm

    Patrick Kelly said: “Everyone needs to take a look at the intelligent design theory. It is a hypothesis that has turned countless athiests to the truth.”

    So which is it, a theory or a hypothesis? Hint: it’s neither because it’s claptrap. Once you strip away all the middle school level, pseudoscientific posturing, it amounts to nothing more than, “If we don’t understand it, God must’ve done it.”

    Shoddy, lackluster BS for shoddy, lackluster people.

  19. Atheist for Life
    North Carolina
    April 22, 2:10 pm

    Why is the sheep see something they can’t explain and immediately go to the magical being in the clouds. Life just is.. It wasn’t created by anyone, it just happens. Get a grip on logic and facts and you’ll see there is no such thing as a deity of ANY kind.

    Remember, Fire to cavemen was magic..

  20. Robert
    April 22, 1:35 pm

    Science and religion are to different things. You cannot compare the two. One simply threatens the other and that produces a conflict that can never be settled. This comment in and of itself is a contradiction of what I’m about to say but cannot compare theory and philosophy to science. Science requires a 95% significance or greater. That what is observed is rare compared to a random event. This means that experimentation with the same environmental qualities and controls always produces a non-random result. There is no proof of God. You cannot produce a test that tests anything other than faith. Science is based on tested theories, that become laws. These laws become acceptable a because they align with the Nature (the massive collection of standing theories). If you tried to prove the existence of God you could only do it philosophically( by definition cannot be proven correct or incorrect). There is no proof of God that compares to the proof of Evolution and any arguments posed to the contrary are just silly, and make believe when compared to the physical biology, chemistry, and physics, etc. that are used to discover new pieces of the real puzzle which is, why we are here and how we came to be.

  21. Ramiro LLovera
    Buenos Aires, Argentina
    April 22, 1:08 pm

    Oh delicious cephalopod, fly into my frying pan!!!

  22. Chris Johnson
    April 22, 12:24 pm

    All i see here are people arguing about the exact point of view, the same view, with different words. god, evolution. evolution is technically a god like figure within science. and god is an evolutionary type figure within religion. the universe, is infinite. do you really know what that means? infinite? anything, and everything is possible, therefore all is true, just as much as it is not. dualities exist because we constantly separate “truth” from “lies”. don’t you see? we separated them. before we did that they were one. i think these squids are cool as hell and have adapted well to survive in their environment. go flying squids!!

  23. God
    April 22, 12:23 pm

    If the humans think the flying squid is amazing wait until they discover my jazz trumpet playing aardvark……..

  24. David Duncan
    Southfield,Mi
    April 22, 12:21 pm

    I suppose the religious comments are do to the popularity of Cosmos. Wow have one show and everybody freaks out. How many ministers in big houses ask for money every sunday. Anyway back to the squid no matter how you slice it all these new discoveries are amazing to see and learn about.

  25. Dwayne LaGrou
    Lapeer, Michigan
    April 22, 11:10 am

    I was under the impression that this was an article about a species of Squid that could fly to evade predators. I didn’t read anything even remotely concerning Religion!? It’s an AWESOME DISCOVERY !!! Who would have thought that a Squid would use Jet Propulsion to run away from dangers!!!
    AWESOME PHOTOS!!!

  26. Patrick Kelly
    Shelbyville TN
    April 22, 10:42 am

    Why are so many people too stubborn to understand the truth? Everyone needs to take a look at the intelligent design theory. It is a hypothesis that has turned countless athiests to the truth. And that’s because the scientific evidence is so irrefutable that they simply can’t not believe that there is a God. That’s just a fact. Open your eyes people.

  27. KJ
    ARLINGTON TX
    April 22, 10:28 am

    Why is it when man finds something that hasn’t been seen before they automatically say evolution. The thing that kills me is we never see the middle change always the ” before ” and ” after “. This is why I can’t believe in it. No proof at all just ppl saying it.

  28. Confused
    Leeds, UK
    April 22, 10:07 am

    Can someone please explain to me why every freaking comment is talking about religion? Really don’t see the relevance.

  29. pistol
    United Kingdom
    April 22, 6:33 am

    to many primitive people still around in this world for the 21st century. those people should really start learning about cosmology. You will be amazed how your views would change.

  30. frazer
    April 22, 6:23 am

    did someone post this on a religion website or something.. people get a grip..it take millions of years to develop such characteristics.. the planet is not only a few thousand years old…evolution on this planet is a proven fact get over it…

  31. chris
    Gilbert, AZ
    April 22, 5:32 am

    Interesting article. But how did religion get thrown in the mix? Someone had been wanting to share that passage/poem for a long time! LOL.

  32. Antonio
    Amsterdam
    April 22, 5:22 am

    I don’t know if God created everything. I think God designed or planed things and let nature runs its course. God can also be seen as the force behind creation, I think that is a beter way to describe God.

  33. Dony Bland
    United States
    December 11, 2013, 2:50 am

    Um,There is a higher power, I married her some 30 years back, So on to the flying squid,Eh? Capt.Harry Pidgeon wrote of them in 1921 he witnessed them in the Indian ocean, of Rodriguez Island, evading predator He stated , “this is interesting, I do not think it is popularly known”

  34. billy the man
    u.s.
    November 13, 2013, 6:11 pm

    From “whispers in a silent universe” my latest obsession.

    Divine Science

    Humanity still debates it origins,
    Arguments rage between sages and science,
    Both sides locked in defiance.
    Book cases, fragments of bone from far off places,
    Reasonable men hurling accusations,
    Kicking up dust, clouding the conversation.
    Science verses theology,
    All men of faith,
    All men of conviction,
    All claiming truth, and debating fiction.
    What force or forces brought things into being?
    Did matter evolve? Is space nothing?
    Where did space come from,
    This Big Bang, this massive explosion
    That some say happened, sending every universe,
    And all the planets, into their places?
    Some say gravity, some say faith.
    Linear men seek eternal answers,
    Not knowing what gives them weight.
    Infinity, time, and space
    All so much to contemplate.
    Is it design or random fate?
    Maybe matter can use logic to self replicate?
    Maybe God is dirt or evolution is dirty thinking?
    Another round waiter,
    It’s time for some drinking,

  35. Furexa
    Newcastle, Australia
    July 29, 2013, 8:37 pm

    …. A religious and scientific debate on a page about flying squid on National Geographic of all places. Wow, I don’t want to be human anymore XD.

  36. Drksyde72
    United States
    May 28, 2013, 4:43 pm

    How do flying squid open a debate about evolution vs religion? Squid have gone unchanged for millions of years so if they fly now they flew then, we are just now observing it for the first time.

  37. Mel N
    May 21, 2013, 8:13 am

    Evolution is amazing. And the religious need to be thoroughly educated in science.

  38. James
    May 17, 2013, 9:29 am

    Why the hell does everyone have to bitch and argue about god and science. Why can’t they both just exist? Who knows maybe a human EVOLVED into a God sometime in the past?! Either way God or no God, we live on an extroidinary planet full of unexplained beauty and wonder. It doesn’t hurt to believe in God just incase he’s real, but the problem is people PUSH him onto everyone else, and that’s what’s irritating. I think there is a higher being somewhere or there wouldn’t be so many civilizations throughout history praising one. Yet evolution is most definitely real, and I say THE UNIVERSE did a great job with CREATION!!

  39. Bernie Robertson
    May 14, 2013, 6:10 pm

    Hey! Science! So, what Kind of squid is that? It don’t look like Humbolt or Arrow. Be science-ish. Thorough.

  40. Lori Cameron
    Canada
    May 14, 2013, 11:06 am

    It is amazing to see the works of God’s hands-with all our “intelligence” and high tech toys, we still haven’t seen all that God has made, shared with us…we must take great care of this gift, someday we will be called to account for all that has happened to His creation…

  41. Zwirad
    USA
    May 12, 2013, 11:09 am

    Fascinating how they can take TEN tenticles and form them into an airfoil and fly. THAT is real bioengineering! The Canard Wing has been around for millions of years. Millions of years of EVOLUTION crafted such a marvalous flight mechanism!

  42. ALISTAIR CHRISTIE
    DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA
    May 12, 2013, 7:22 am

    Mention is made of squid landing on the raft Kon Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl. I am sure that National Geographic carried artiles on the expedition (1947) in the late forties or early fifties. I have seen squid “flying” off Durban on several occasions over the years.

  43. alex beechey
    hobart, tasmania, australia
    May 11, 2013, 8:56 am

    could this be something they have learn’t from flying fish? they are known to be fairly intelegent aren’t they?

  44. Miriam English
    Earth
    May 11, 2013, 1:41 am

    Sad that people can see a complex and truly wondrous thing like flying squid and demote it to being the creation of some supernatural figment of their imagination. Why can’t they be satisfied with how amazing the world really is?

  45. Donald Sepanek
    United States
    May 10, 2013, 2:56 pm

    Proves once and for all that Hare Krishna is the master designer.

  46. Wolfenstein
    May 10, 2013, 6:36 am

    Cthulhu children are preparing for the invasion!

  47. Del
    Sydney
    May 10, 2013, 2:24 am

    My cat caught one that jumped and landed on the deck of our boat, while out on the Pacific about 3 years ago. Although she reported it as “tasty”, it also squirted blue ink all over her face. She was known as “Bluebeard the Pirate” for the rest of the trip. I still get a laugh out of that.

  48. Melissa Henry
    Hampton, VA, USA
    May 10, 2013, 1:34 am

    A closed mind cannot create or discover. A true spirit of inquiery means being open to every possibility. I, too, dismissed a ‘higher power’ than man until I was reminded to keep my mind open. We are abe to study and research many forms energy now, but for most of human history we lived in ignorance. I accept that the time may come when science will prove that there is a ‘god’.

  49. Kai Johnson
    May 9, 2013, 10:29 pm

    Praise be to the mighty Poseidon, Lord of the sea!

  50. Margaret Park
    Memphis, TN 38117
    May 9, 2013, 10:05 pm

    All living things evolve to meet their needs. And that is why evolution is true. Those squids were not flying 500 years ago very likely. And then there is the fact, that it just takes one to try it and if success is met, everyone goes for it. That was probably God’s original plan.

  51. Guildenstern
    May 9, 2013, 5:37 pm

    It’s amazing how the earth’s creatures naturally evolve with so many unexpected abilities.

  52. Daar
    May 9, 2013, 5:26 pm

    This is totally fake.

  53. Strainer
    May 9, 2013, 5:00 pm

    No! I claim these squid for the one true god, the Flying Spaghetti Monster! Yarrr…

  54. Derk Nuggleston
    Upstate NY
    May 9, 2013, 4:58 pm

    I’m pretty sure Super Mario Bros knew about flying squid for decades.

  55. JVekesh
    Trinidad & Tobago, W.I
    May 9, 2013, 4:56 pm

    People.. Please don’t reduce these wonders of nature to an act of god/allah.. These squid’s ancestors went through millions of years of various evolutionary pressures to reach where they are now. This is NatGeo, they report on science not fairy tales..

  56. Ian
    New Zealand
    May 9, 2013, 4:32 pm

    Any Youtube footage available? I’d love to show this to my kids (and see it for myself)…

  57. Auric
    Canada
    May 9, 2013, 4:30 pm

    One word: EVOLUTION… Get use to it… No higher “being” helped with this animal’s tactic to survive from its predators…

  58. God
    May 9, 2013, 4:24 pm

    I didn’t do it.

  59. vincent
    htown
    May 9, 2013, 4:24 pm

    Need. Video. Now.

  60. the big test
    May 9, 2013, 4:20 pm

    so if god created life on earth, and he told Noah to collect all of his creations on an Arch.. shouldn’t there be a complete list of everything living on this planet? Therefore fascinating discoveries could be used to debunk the whole believe or die fiction they’re lying to little kids about. And the whole argument could be solved.

  61. Kristine Faloon
    Bora Bora, French Polynesia
    May 9, 2013, 4:20 pm

    We’ve repeated found dead squid in the morning on the deck of the school ship Argo, thinking the only possible way for them to arrive was through the air. Happy to see that our suspicions have been confirmed!

  62. Alvin Abalos
    Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
    May 9, 2013, 4:16 pm

    wow, that was totally amazing.. :)

  63. Oh please
    May 9, 2013, 4:16 pm

    Seriously, can’t we have a thread without the discussion of “god”?

    Look up evolution and shut up.

  64. Nottaking Thingsseriously
    A tiny barrel in the wilderness
    March 21, 2013, 7:40 am

    “I discovered something slimy sitting in my lap.”

    Okay Tui, how do I put this…….

  65. Perk Perkins
    United States
    March 3, 2013, 12:22 am

    I’ve seen flying squid many times in the Caribbean. Usually when I am skimming fast in my skiff. Have nearly been hit by them a few times. I wonder if they are the same species of if many species of squid can fly.

  66. Charles umagu
    Nigeria
    February 26, 2013, 12:38 pm

    God is a supernatural Being

  67. Jessica Armstrong
    Maryland, USA
    February 25, 2013, 4:21 pm

    The flying squids are really cool! I never heard this before and am glad to see such a great picture of this.

  68. Givemeabreak
    Earth
    February 23, 2013, 12:45 pm

    The only thing more amazing than flying squid is the fact that in the 21st century there are still people who believe in silly fairy tales like god.

  69. Tui Allen
    New Zealand
    February 22, 2013, 3:00 pm

    I remember sailing along in the middle of the South Pacific at night sitting at the tiller in the cockpit of our little wooden boat. I discovered something slimy sitting in my lap. It was a squid. I presumed ever after that everyone knew they could fly. I’d also found flying fish lying in the cockpit. Everyone knew about them!

  70. Wayne
    Ireland
    February 21, 2013, 7:20 pm

    God didn’t make anything !

  71. khaled
    UAE
    February 21, 2013, 3:45 pm

    It is the first time I hear about these flying squids… Its the perfect creation of ALLAH.

  72. Mike Stephens
    San Diego, CA.
    February 21, 2013, 10:33 am

    While on a surf to Western Samoa almost exactly 4 years ago, I had a flying squid experience. My brother and I were being shuttled with our boards out to the reef pass about a mile off shore when it happened! Naturally, we were both facing forward when we noticed a missle like object break the surface of the water off the port bow of the small shuttle boat. The object, which turned out to be a small (10″ long approx.) squid, hit the bow and in the process of soaring over the boat about 3′ over us, opened up like a parachute. The most striking part of all of this where the amazing colors it manifested while flying by. Electric purples, reds and blues were pulsating through the body of the animal like a blue marlin, angry at being hooked. We have since of course told the story to a few people and were generally met with skepticism. We are now vindicated….thank you! Viva El Calamari Volante!

  73. Royce De la Cruz Jr.
    Manila, Philippines
    February 21, 2013, 6:38 am

    Wow! I grew up with flying fish all over me when I went swimming in the sea by our house in Cadiz City, Negros Occidental here in the Philippines. But flying squid?! :) It is amazing to see how God truly made this world a wonder and a marvel for generations to come! :)