Humboldt "vocalizations"?

Nov 20, 2002
Hi Steve et al --

Yesterday, on ANIMAL PLANET, there was an episode of "Ultimate Animals" which dealt with the highest-flying and deepest-diving creatures on earth.

This show included some footage featuring the naturalist host diving in the Sea of Cortez, to "rendezvous" with a school of Dosidicus gigas that were ascending to feed at night. The Humboldts appeared to attack the naturalist, who was visibly shaken, until he realized that they were just curious about his lighting equipment -- at which point he seemed more awed than afraid.

Something about the encounter puzzled me, though. As the giant Humboldts darted around "inspecting" the host's underwater torches, there were odd buzzing and screeching sounds going on behind his narration. These sounds did not appear to be coming from either his breathing apparatus or the film's music track. They brought to mind last year's news articles about the mass stranding of smaller Humboldts along the American West Coast. in which the observers described the dying cephs emitting odd, squeaking noises.

Is it possible, then, that Dosidicus are capable of "vocalizations" of some sort? Obviously they do not have vocal cords, but do they possess other organs which emit sound? If so, is this a means of communication, or simply a by-product of their locomotion (e.g., the passage of water under the mantle or through the funnel)? And how would this explain the sounds emitted by the beached individuals dying on the shore?

Please forgive me if any of this sounds naive, especially since B-movies so often attribute vocalization to giant cephs in order to (ostensibly) make them appear scarier. (One of the more amusing of this genre is OCTOPUS 2.)

Still very curious,
Tiz possible Tani (that they vocalise/produce sound). If the microphone picks it up then I'm sure the squid are aware that they are making the 'noise', and in fact may be doing so consciously. It would be interesting to analyse both footage and sound track to determine whether any squid respond in a predictable/recurring manner to the sound/vibration, and whether a particular display/body movement was responsible for making the 'noise' (like a rapid mantle contraction [and resulting squirt through the funnel - there's a structure inside the funnel itself called the 'funnel organ', no pun intended, that might play a part in producing sound]; a rapid drawing together of the arms, or a clap of the fins, arms or tentacles :biggrin2: ).

What we know of squid behaviour is based largely on observation of captive Sepia, Sepioteuthis, Rossia, Sepioloidea, Loligo .... coastal and more often than not warm-water species, none of which is remotely like the pelagic and oceanic Dosidicus (or any ommastrephid squid [family Ommastrephidae]). I think we'll find the behaviour and life cycles of oceanic and deep-sea pelagic to benthopelagic squid to be quite different from that of their coastal relatives. In other words I'll reserve judgement on it and say 'it is possible'.

I know that Nototodarus, a close cousin of Dosidicus, makes a lot of noise when live and removed from a tank (as do I when its' beak catches the hand and the tentacular suckers [and toothed sucker rings] find purchase in my arm), but I'd put these farting, burping, whistling and squeeling noises down to the mantle drawing air [as it drained]. I'd do the same if immersed in water without SCUBA (not that anyone would hear me).

I guess we'll learn more soon :wink:
Hi again Tani!

I'm not sure I'm buying it. I've dissected a Dosidicus and I can't see any way that Humboldt squid can really vocalize. However, Steve has made a few points on how the siphon and funnel organ is a possible candidate.

It reminds me of a weird case back in school. I was dating a girl in SETA (Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and her group told me that lobsters scream when you boil them. Well, yes, they do emit a horrible sound... Not quite as horrible as a rabbit scream (you DEFINITELY don't want to hear that - I guarantee you will have nightmares for decades), but a bad sound. Well, in invertebrate zoology we covered that and discovered that, in boiling the exoskeletons of crustaceans, air is released into a gas phase, as well as chemically altering the proteins and tannins of the exoskeleton. Result? Sound. Lobsters CAN'T vocalize. *sigh* I won't judge whether or not they can feel pain.

Armed with this new-found knowledge, I scampered off to tell these SETA people... Needless to say, bad move. I'm no genius.

Sound carries through water... very well, in fact. Maybe the sounds were from distant sources? If the squid are vocalizing, maybe they're evolving into Squibbons (a la "The Future is Wild"). :lol:

Sorry, not meaning to be a smart-arse. :oops:

One more thing; fish are very vibration-sensitive. I wouldn't be surprised if squid could possibly vocalize but I would be even MORE suprised if they COULDN'T pick up on sound/vibration... I honestly argue that the squid is the molluscan equivalent of the fish - a raptorial predator that epitomizes speed and the use of all its senses. I believe that they evolved along these lines - niche for niche, nature certain favors designs. There are patterns there.

Any thoughts?

Sushi and Sake

While lobsters can't vocalize, as in consciously shriek while being boiled alive (though I don't think it would hurt anyone to make them think twice about it by perpetuating this small white lie :wink: ), they actually do make another noise, which sounds like a kind of growl, and I think is caused by certain sets of mouthparts grinding together? I worked on lobsters for about three years, and when threatened, they definitely did produce sound - a little like the noise a fish called grunt makes.
But in any case, we all know squid go 'BLOOP!'

Oh, and a sidenote - John, there's a Japanese restaurant about a block from Steve's apartment called Sushi & Sake. Just thought you'd like to know. :smile:

Wow... cool...

And yeah, I know lobsters have sound-making mouthparts... I wasn't aware that our Maine lobsters made noise though.

Going vegetarian sometimes seems like a pretty good idea... :lol:

Sushi and Sake (and some other local restaurants?)

I thought i'd add my little bit... very interesting discussion here!

I've heard squeaks come out of squid removed from water... my guess at the time was it tried to jet, but found nothing to jet with... sorry little guy!