I just found out that squid, those amazing funky-shaped demons that can make themselves invisible have another superpower that makes them infinitely cooler... they can fly!
The other day at a job interview, the old question "if you could be any kind of animal, what would it be?" came up. After thinking for a moment, I said "a duck," because, naturally, they can swim, they can walk and they can fly, and I think that combination is pretty sweet. I may have to call that interviewer back now, because I want to change my answer to "squid."
With her husband and fellow biologist Michael Robinson, Maciá identified the airborne cephalopod as a Caribbean reef squid (Sepioteuthis sepioidea)—a lithe, torpedo-shaped critter with long, undulating fins. They think the squid was startled by the noise of the boat's outboard engine and estimated that the 20-centimeter-long mollusk reached a height of two meters above the water and flew a total distance of 10 meters—50 times its body length. What's more, the squid extended its fins and flared its tentacles in a radial pattern while airborne, as though guiding its flight.
"It was doing this weird thing with its arms where it had them spread out almost in a circle," recalls Maciá, who teaches at Barry University in Florida. "It had its fins kind of flared out as much as it could—it really looked liked it was flying. It hadn't accidentally flopped out of the water; it was maintaining its posture in a certain way. It was doing something active.""From our observations it seemed like squid engage in behaviors to prolong their flight," Maciá says. "One of our co-authors saw them actually flapping their fins. Some people have seen them jetting water while in flight. We felt that 'flight' is more appropriate because it implies something active."The aerodynamic benefit an airborne squid derives from flapping fins and spiraled tentacles is not clear, but some researchers hypothesize that these behaviors provide extra lift and help stabilize the squid when out of its primary element. In the water some squid spread their tentacles into a weblike pattern that facilitates swimming backward—a trick they could try to mimic in the air to gain an extra set of wings, some scientists have proposed. And rapidly changing the position of the tentacles could even function as a kind of brake.
Awesome. This creates a close contest between the squid and the octopus as the coolest animals ever. They both can swim, and octopuses can walk, but flying is key: but for that giant flying octopus that attacked Japan two years ago, it'd be a dealbreaker.