Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Washed up Humboldt squid

Another amazing adventure today at the Port Townsend Marine
Science Center. This morning we got a call from the office saying that a squid had washed up on the Adelma Beach on Discovery Bay. Since we were unsure of its size, we got suited up with gloves & boots and got lots of garbage bags! We were told it was a Humboldt squid which can get up to 7 feet long so Jess and I were prepared for a large one! This one was pretty dense and roughly 5 feet from tentacles to the tip.

It is now being stored in our freezer for squid printing activities in the future!

This is one of its eyes:

Here you can see the beak (used for capturing and eating prey):

Since the beak of the humboldt squid is so hard (one of the stiffest organic materials in nature!) it was long a mystery how the delicate, gelatinous squids could operate their beaks without tearing their own flesh.
In a recent article from Science Daily, Frank Zok, professor and associate chair of the Department of Materials at UC Santa Barbara described this intriguing "squidly" problem:

"Here you have a 'cutting tool' that's extremely hard and stiff at its tip and is attached to a material ---- the muscular buccal mass ---- that has the consistency of Jell-o. You can imagine the problems you'd encounter if you attached a knife blade to a block of Jell-o and tried to use that blade for cutting. The blade would cut through the Jell-o at least as much as the targeted object."

THE ANSWER TO THE MYSTERY! Researchers from UC Santa Barbara found that the beak's stiffness follows a gradient: the tip is extraordinarily stiff while the base is much softer, "100 times more compliant, allowing it to blend with the surrounding tissue". However, this gradient only exists when the beak is wet- once the whole surface becomes dessicated (dried out) it attains a uniform stiffness. Thank goodness squids are marine!!

FASCINATING!!!!! And yet another reason why we LOVE marine biology....

Another wonderful day at PTMSC,

The Amazing AmeriCorps,

Jess and Valerie

source (check it out folks!):


  1. Jess! You are way too cool. Maybe next time you will find the mysterious and elusive giant squid. If so, please confirm that the cross section of a tentacle is really the size of a car tire. Have always wanted to know.
    Love you,

  2. That is soo awesome! It is nice to see the new bright shiny faces at PTMSC, good luck this year girls!

  3. Very interesting, thank you for posting!


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