While Pigs May Never Fly, Squids Sure Do!
Though rumors and anecdotes about squids flying over the Pacific Ocean have been circulating since 1892, nobody had been able to substantiate it with scientific evidence. This was largely because observing these elusive creatures in the wild is a little difficult, thanks to the fact that they spend most of their lives underwater. Now some Japanese marine biologists have not only confirmed that they fly, but also, unveiled how the cephalopods take-off, move through the air and land back gracefully.
The team of scientists led by Jun Yamamoto from Japan's Hokkaido University conducted their research by following a shoal of 100 Japanese squid in the north-west Pacific Ocean, about 370 miles off the shore of Tokyo in July, 2011. As their boat approached the molluscs they witnessed an astonishing sight - About 20 of the eight-inch long creatures shot up in the air, launching themselves with the help of a powerful jet of water that emanated from their funnel-like stems, similar to how a flyboard propels a human.
By the time the water ran out, the squids were well over the surface of the ocean. Then came the interesting part - They did not plunge right back in, but instead 'flew' in the air by spreading out their fins and arms. According to the scientists who published their findings in the February 2013 edition of Marine Biology, this posture helped create the perfect aerodynamic lift needed to keep them in the air, albeit only for about three seconds after which, they tucked their fins back in and made a smooth landing on the surface of the ocean.
Not impressed? How about this? The short flight was done at a supersonic speed of 11.2 meters (36.74 feet) per second. To put it in perspective, the squids flew faster than the world's fastest man - Usain Bolt who sprints a mere 10.31 meters (33.82 feet) in a second. It is no wonder that they are able to cover a distance of about 30 meters (100 feet) during each 'flight'.
Researchers are a little divided on the reason these squid sporadically take flight. Some, like the Japanese researchers believe it is to avoid predators, but Ron O' Dor a marine biologist who was probably the first scientist to observe this phenomenon on captivate Humboldt squids, believes it may have something to do with migration. He thinks that because the squid travel with very little fat reserves when migrating, they take flight so that they can get to their destination a lot quicker. Unfortunately, unless the squid start to speak, this is a mystery we may never be able to solve.