Wednesday, April 18, 2007

giant squid sex. unsavory?

Cephalopod sex does seem to leave something to be desired as it often involves the male jamming sperm packets into the tentacles or orifices of female cephalopods. Luckily, I am no longer in college so you will not have to read a feminist interpretation of this activity. But, sadly, it seems that vast size does not improve squid lovemaking skill. Two giant squids were caught off the coast of Tasmania in 1997, and one of the squids had "embedded spermatophores in the skin on both ventral arms" (Norman and Lu, 1997).

Apparently male squid often make "wounds" on female squid and then stick in their sperm packet (Unlike other cephalopods who have modified arms to pass their sperm packets to the ladies). How are these wounds on the female tentacles made? Well, the male squid "may use their beak or the sharp scythe-like hooks found on the tentacles and/or arms." Then they have a "long muscular penis" they use to pass the spermatophores into the wounds.

In giant squid, the authors suggest that "male giant squids also use the penis to transfer spermatophores directly to the female...the muscular penis might 'inject' the spermatophores into the skin, potentially under hydraulic pressure." (Yes, hydraulic pressure.) But, don't worry too much about chafing: "Architeuthis spermatophores are enveloped in a gelatinous coating...which may act as a lubricant." Tender!

Most entertaining is a report on an "accidental injection" in a male giant squid caught in Norway in the 1950's. This male had spermatophores embedded in several of his arms and the mantle. He may have accidentally injected himself, or another male might have done it. The authors do not go so far, however, to suggest the possiblity of an alternate lifestyle in giant squid, though that is what i will propose in an upcoming NIH grant.

M.D. Norman and C.C. Lu. Sex in giant squid. Nature, 1997, vol. 389, pp. 683-684.

1 comment:

William Alton said...

HAHA. massively entertaining, sadly educational. thank you.