Resurrected [Old Board Archive]: Documentaries


Staff member
Site Owner
May 30, 2000
Here's another classic thread dusted off from the "vault" of the pre-November 2002 Message Board (now defunct and superannuated by the one you're viewing now!)... This one really is a classic... enjoy:

-- tonmo


Hi all. This might sound like a strange question to post, but I was wondering whether anyone had any ideas about what they would like to see in a documentary on squid and octopus. It can't just be about going out and filming something, or filming lots of things, or dropping subs down and just taking a look - there has to be a hook there to catch peoples attention.

There are so many documentary possibilities; I thought this might be a good place to talk about them; I'm sure someone here has something rather creative to say.

If you have an idea, describe it and post for discussion, then someone will take notice at some point; there are a number of documentary companies out there that could be monitoring this sort of site, and they might just pick up on it. The outcome may well be you get to see what it is you most want to see, and have some say in the matter too.

Anyone with any thoughts?

Right now I'm following up on my larval GS work. There will be lots of new and rather exciting imagery there, and of course, lots of (live)squid.

Re: Documentaries|sarrah|
Hmm....well maybe this has been done too much, but personally I never get over bioluminescence? I remember a couple of years ago they found an octo in the process of evolving his suckers into little glowbulbs (there has to be a real term for that, but for now I'm going with glowbulbs...) - I haven't heard anything about him in a while but I remember it was fascinating (and definitely a good visual hook for a TV documentary...).


Re: Documentaries|rudiger|
Hi. First of all, more cuttlefish documentaries. Of course, I still have to say my favorite ceph is the octopus. I would like to see a documentary that looks at the research being done with cephs. I would like to see how cephs are kept in labs, the experiments run with them. I will never get bored watching an octopus figure out how to open a jar to get the food out. Or seeing how a cuttlefish reacts when it watches other cuttlefish on TV.

Re: Documentaries|tonmo|
I agree with regard to covering cuttlefish. I think what's due is a broad cephalopod documentary. I believe folks would find it interesting that squid, cuttlefish and octopus are all cephalopods, and it should include facts on what it is that makes them similar. A deeper, more scientific look at their evolution and physical make-up would be great.

Most importantly, I suggest a segment about "cephalopods on the web," where is prominently featured. I'm available for interviews. :biggrin2:

Re: Documentaries|tintenfisch|
cuttlefish are definitely under-reported... has anyone ever documented 'talking' to them? we had a few at the aquarium (new england) and when we first got them, they would respond to human fingers positioned into key 'cuttlespeak' poses. (the one i remember best, if you want to try it sometime, goes like this: put the tips of your thumb, pointer and pinky fingers on one hand close together, and your middle and ring fingers straight out and together above them, holding your hand kind of parallel to the floor, in the same orientation a cuttle's tentacles would be - this means 'i am a friendly cuttlefish' or, i suppose more scientifically, would be a non-threatening posture communicating interest and curiosity.) they did soon stop responding to anyone but the people who specifically fed them, the clever little buggers, but it was fun for a while. they would notice you and stop whatever they were doing to come right up to the glass and take a good look - some even signalled 'friendly' back!
so - has much research been done on actually communicating with cuttles or other cephs by mimicking postures? that would make a hella cool documentary.

Re: Documentaries|rudiger|
about the cuttlefish communicating: In the documentary "incredible suckers" it talks about cuttlefish signaling with their tentacles. A researcher put a TV next to a cuttle tank. On the Tv was a movie of a cuttlefish moving its tentacles into different positions, and the cuttle in the tank watching TV put its tentacles in the same position, presumably trying to signal back.

Someone mentioned evolution of cephs, I think this is a great idea. A whole documentary that focused on the different features of cephs and how they evolved to that point. It could point out the difference between a reef octo and a deep water octo, how they have different features. How archeteuthus (spelling?) has some claws in place of suckers, how the octopus eye is very similar to a human eye, and how very unique a cuttle eye is, there is so much...

Re: Documentaries|steve_oshea|
Hi Rudiger. Actually, Architeuthis lacks hooks on the arms and tentacles - Peter Benchley got that wrong in his 'The Beast' (or whatever the title was). There are, however, a large number of different kinds of squid that possess hooks on the arms and/or tentacles.

I too would like to see a documentary wherein the diversity of cephalopodan form, and evolution within the group were treated, but worry that it might appeal more to the specialist than generalist. Many of the more interesting looking squid and octopus, particularly the deep-sea forms, are known from dead specimens only, and it is hard for the general public to get enthused about a corpse in a bottle, even if the person describing it seems to be in raptures (they'd be more amused by the antics of the bottle holder than what was in the bottle itself).

It is a really good idea - certainly worth thinking about a little more. Please don't take what I say here to be negative in any way ok. We need a little more stock footage of deep-sea live animals to make this fly right now, and getting that footage is both extremely expensive and stressful.
Kindest, Me

Re: Documentaries|rudiger|
About architeuthus not having hooks, I thought I a TV show that said researches have found sperm whales that have scratches on their heads. It said the scratches were from when the whale eats the giant squid and the squid fights back by grabbing the whale and scratching it. Of course, you are the expert so ill trust you over the tv show ;D. Ill also admit that I went to an aquarium in florida and they had a dead giant squid and I tried to look for the hooks and didn't really see any...

Re: Documentaries|melbe|
Hey all!!!
The show "Incredible Suckers" is what got me hooked on cephs in the beginning. If you look at the member directory I mention it, not by name, but I believe it is mentioned. Also, I would love to see stuff on intelligence of cuttles and octos, and communication of cuttles. I think anything that shows the freaky stuff like the flasher squid, and the Christmas light octo. I think I would like to see the complexities of the ceph eyes. Not nautilus(circle box eye that only sees light,not much there), but cuttle, octo and squid. I would also like to see something about how the cuttle can change color and pattern. Basically, anything that "brags" about how awesome the cephs are. There is so much I'd like to see. Maybe someday I'll[/] make a cool documentry .

Re: Documentaries|nancy|
Hi all,
You've already mentioned lots of ideas about what we'd like to see. Let me add a couple more. Many of the documentaries cover a number of topics, so these might be included:

Discussion and examples of octopus ability to reproduce the color and texture of its surroundings. This sounds commonplace by now, but people are fascinated by this ability. A portion of this footage could be filmed in the lab, where octopuses could respond to patterns. I read somewhere about octos being placed on checkerboards, and they did a fair job of blending in. There are many interesting possibilities.

Small octopuses. These can be charming. For example, the little Blue-ringed Octopus in Incredible Suckers. It seems like we are always looking for the largest octopus or squid - this would be a contrast.

And I agree, more cuttlefish!


Re: Documentaries|steve_oshea|
And here's another. I've always wanted to see a doco on how octopus and squid 'do the business', but it's not easy pitching something R-rated, even if on invertebrates, for dinner-time viewing.

The hook here would be the 'R-business'. There's so much we don't know about this aspect of squid and octopus biology; most of it is guesswork. Maybe if viewed in an evolutionary context you could compare the weird and wonderful variety of species with the sometimes peculiar business strategies; kill 2 birds with one stone.

Re: Documentaries|tintenfisch|
that would definitely be a cool documentary, and present an opportunity for comment on that pseudo-mating someone filmed a few years back between the two deep-sea male octos of different species... i did a presentation a few years back on bathyal cephs and found several articles on that partictular footage. i think the best-titled one (not surprisingly in a somewhat sensationalist newspaper) was 'gay octopi baffle scientists with torrid sex scene.'
this was definitely the part of my presentation that interested my audience the most as well. heh heh. :smile:

Re: Documentaries|steve_oshea|
We have often observed this with shallow water species. Place two male Octopus huttoni (a local species, formerly referred to as Robsonella australis) in the same tank and quick as a flash the two confused fellows are at it.

On a number of occasions I've received male giant squid that have mated with other male giant squid. I sometimes think the only requirement for mating to occur in this species is that a potential suitor is big and doesn't eat you first.

Re: Documentaries|melbe|
In Incredable Suckers there were cuttles doing the deed. But do the guy octos produce viable offspring? No....they can't they're guys, not bacteria(if this statement confuses anyone...bacteria will mate with live or dead bacteria, guy or doesn't matter, not that there really is guy and gal bacteria...okay stupid statement alltogether. Lets forget I said anything, shall we?)
See Ya'

Re: Re: Documentaries|octomonkey|
"I sometimes think the only requirement for mating to occur in this species is that a potential suitor is big and doesn't eat you first."

You know Steve, I think I've seen that in some of the night clubs in Glasgow too, well maybe swap "big" for "drunk".....

On another note my Sepia have been spawning for a few days, several times i have caught them together, i first spotted sucker marks on her face a few days ago, i think they are undersized for spawing tho. The bad news is that the female has now died, today I plan to have a good look through all the rocks in my tank to see if I can find eggs.... that is a task and a half all in it's own...

Talk about a love bite... that male ate half her face, actually worse than that.... he was still mating with her when i found her dead, huh??? ceph sex eh?

Re: Documentaries|steve_oshea|
Howdo Colin. I've never heard of anything quite so violent, but I have very little experience with cuttlefish (I've only ever seen them live twice - once in a fish market in Taiwan, and at Mote Marine Lab down Sarasota). Is this normal behaviour for these animals? It seems a little barbaric (and, given these are pets, a little tragic). Here's hoping she had time to lay some eggs!

PS, obviously gotta watch your beer intake down Glasgow eh!

Re: Documentaries|octomonkey|
Hi steve O'

everything ive read suggests he should be a protective mate and defend them from other males and predators etc. I have no idea why he would do that, still, thats animal husbandry for you. Wish they would all learn to read the same books we do.......


Re: Documentaries|steve_oshea|
Hmmm, a lot of ideas so far (hope I haven't missed any):

Squid and octopus diversity
A look at the weird and wonderful diversity of squid and octopus species around the world 'From cuttlefish to giant squid', wherein the following could be examined (as a skeletal draft).
*fossils (have a look at some of those fossil nautiloids, ammonites, belemnites and try and reconstruct the animal and environment). (You could have a lot of fun here.)
*look at the evolution of squid, from where they have come and where they may be going (you could have an awful lot of fun here), and how they are related to octopuses.
*how many species of squid and octopus are known today, and a representative look at examples of each (archive/stock footage).
*what differentiates squid from octopus, and take a closer look at the diversity of form and size amongst various representatives.
*what do we know about these animals?

-squid and octopus (very few octopus have light organs)
*You could look at development of light organs (photophores)in squid (it would be extremely difficult to get new imagery of light-producing octopus).
*what are these light organs, as in what makes them glow?
*Use of light (what do they use these light organs for).
*What species possess them, and where they live in the water column, and link this in to what they might use these light-producing structures for.
(I'm not sure if you could stretch this into a documentary by itself; it is not something I've given a great deal of consideration to; perhaps you have a lot more and far more interesting ideas.)

- examination of reproductive strategies amongst species of squid squid and octopus, wherein the following could be looked at (and much more).
*age at maturity (and how age is determined for squid and octopus species), and growth rates. What marks the onset of maturity? *What is the difference between larvae (paralarvae) as opposed to juveniles, subadults or adults (if in fact any difference exists for the majority of species).
*description of male and female reproductive organs and appendages, when they develop and from what. Describe the classic transfer of spermatophores from male to female using the hectocotylus, then discuss some rather interesting/bizarre departures from this popularised technique.
*obtain imagery of reproducing squid and octopus (this would be more likely to obtain in a laboratory/controlled lighting environment), looking at mating behaviour in detail.
*Post egg-deposition or release (in the case of many pelagic squid species)look at egg size, shape and development amongst a variety of squid/octopus taxa.
*examine culture techniques for rearing larvae, as opposed to adults in captivity. (This could be a docuimentary on its own; anyone with ideas?)
*examine shifts in habitat and dietary requirements with growth.

The problem with all of this is that it is all over the show; it needs a central theme to link it all together - like 'The weird and wonderful life-histories of squid and octopus'.

Cuttlefish (general)
- behaviour
- breeding
(some interesting aspects of cuttle behaviour have already been mentioned, but in order to get a documentary together these have in some way got to be linked into a story; as it stands, nobody take offence, you have some interesting snippets of footage, but no way that you could stretch it into more than a few minutes. Thinking caps on:smile:).

Octopus behaviour (general)
*octopus ingenuity and behaviour
(need a theme here too, and a lot more ideas as to what you could do with the octopus/behaviour aspect; again, not my area of expertise)

.....and both beer-drinking in Glasgow and octopus on the web (featuring Tony).

Anyone want to expand/fill in the gaps on any of this and fill in on the cuttles. Please, shred anything I've written here to pieces; I'll not be offended. I'm just trying to pull various ideas together to see where things stand.
Cheers, O

Re: Documentaries|newspaperpopcorn|
i think it would be interessting to show how different countries/people around the world view/treat/eat cephs
like Greek, japanese, hawaiian
myths, stories, recipies

Re: Documentaries|octomonkey|
Here are a couple of things steve, straight from my brain......

feeding strategies...[/]
tentacles and uses, webs in octopuses, feeding tentacles on cuttles, ambush, camoflauge, prey recognition, unusual diets, Their predators and defences, thinking and reasoning in cephs, spatial memory.

I'll have a think about it for a coupl eof days, just remeber who to ask, when you're ready to get specimens or start filming...

I'm off out this coming weekend to do some "research" on that Glasgow and booze theory, purely for scientific research, you understand.....:wink:

Re: Documentaries|steve_oshea|
C, don't forget your white lab coat, clipboard, microphone and hidden camera.

This experiment you are ever-so-bravely prepared to undertake in the name of science has tremendous entertainment appeal. I'm serious in saying you could definitely worm it into a doco somehow. The gastronomical angle could be added too, as you could treat certain persons in your Glasgow bars to bowls of deep-fried squid beaks (said to possess certain magical properties) - you'd need to have some controls, however.
Cheers, O

Re: Documentaries|octomonkey|
okay steve, so..... we'll get 50 volunteers.... and a big bucket of squid beaks... 25 women get to eat squid beaks, 25 dont.... we get really full of beer and then attempt to woo the females with our "mating dances".... I think that this seems fair in the name of science...

As a control; do we need a sober guy at the bar? Or was he designated driver?


Re: Documentaries|steve_oshea|
C, just take LOTS and LOTS of piks - I think this novel experiment should be documented somehow - perhaps you could post a pik in the photo gallery!;D:wink:

Ps., the squid larvae have just had their 24th b'day today; the ravenous little fellas are eating us out of house and home. Did you find any eggs in your tank?

PPs, ...... ummmmmmmm ....... I'm afraid the squid beaks only work for men.

Re: Documentaries|octomonkey|
I havnt been able to find a thing in my tank yet, the fact that there is so much rock and coral and macroalgae is not helping, next time I reckon on getting them in a semi-bare tank. To be honest, I only bought that last lot as pets and never really considered breeding them. well, i had hoped.... but...

em, if it's all the same i may back out now of the beak experiment, there are some things i wont do for science... hehehe

What sort of size difference is there between days one and twenty four steve?
I reckon the cuttles grew from 12 mm to approx 200mm in 5 months, but doubled their mass probably every week for the first few weeks.. what an appetite.....

Re: Documentaries|steve_oshea|
Just looking at the squid I'd say they've doubled in length over the past 3+ weeks, but because I'm concerned about stressing them I've not done any weights or actual measurements (I don't want to disturb them in any way). They are about 15mm in total length right now, which is still quite tiny.

I expect several hundred more will hatch either this weekend or early next week from some rather 'ripe' egg masses that we collected subsequently, and a thousand or so will hatch from other egg masses, not quite as developed, over the coming weeks, so I'll be able to make a direct comparisons when I add the new to old cohorts (I just hope they don't get eaten, that's all; the existing squid are devouring prey easily 1.5 times their size). what on earth changed your mind about that beak experiment, and Oh dear, however did we get onto this subject? Actually, tiz not what you're thinking - and indeed I must admit that the story was relayed to me (as opposed to any personal experience), but I have it on good authority that squid beaks are natures very own Viagra.

I do believe, for the sake of any youngsters (eg., myself) reading these pages, that we'd best get back to the world of octopus, cuttles and squid. Have a jolly good weekend, cheers, O

Re: Documentaries|cephalopoder|
Hi Steve
It's a pleasure to get to talk to you. My name is chris and a early member of tonmo
and absent for a while now do to the overwhelming response of being the moderator
of the cephalopod forum at
They keep me very busy lol. Any how I think it is fantastic that someone like yourself
takes the time to respond to ceph questions out here and give people a chance to
talk to some one with your back ground.
As far as what I would like to see in a ceph documentary...
I would love to see a film done on just the life cycle of hatchling cephalopods. Mostly
covering different eggs types that cephs lay and the life and development of hatchling
cephalopods. The birth and growing up of the young.
There are no films out there that deal with eggs and the young. I think it would be
fantastic to see a film covering the survival strategies, feeding habits, and growing
challenges of the young. There are plenty of films covering grown cephs but nothing
dedicated to the hatchlings.

Re: Documentaries|steve_oshea|
Hi Chris; thanks for the note. I agree with you totally that there's a very interesting documentary to be made concerning eggs, hatchings, and survival strategies in squid and octopus, and to add to this you could include the sometimes drastic ontogenetic changes that young squid (in particular)
undergo as they mature, and some mature squid undergo when they are spent. It is pretty sensational stuff actually.

One type of octopus that I would really love to hatch from eggs, and keep alive thereafter, is the cirrate (finned) octopus, of which there are many types. I have recorded nine species of finned octopus from New Zealand waters, but in all of the years I have been working on deep-sea fauna, and dealing with deep-sea fisheries bycatch, I have not once found the eggs of any of them (although I do have 2 preserved lots of eggs in collections here). This would truly be sensational footage, to rear these larvae up, but I wouldn't have a clue where their eggs are to be found (it may just be that I have not been using the most appropriate collection gear to collect the eggs, but I had read somewhere that they had been found attached to black and gorgonian corals - and I've had tons of this delivered to me without as much as an egg trace).

One of these days you'll get your Architeuthis on film, and I'll get my larval cirrate octopus ..... that's my dream anyway.

It is nice to see some continuity in what people want to view in a documentary; I don't think it would be too dfficult to pull all of this together.
Re: [Old Board Archive]: Documentaries

tonmo said:
Re: Documentaries|tintenfisch|
key 'cuttlespeak' poses. (the one i remember best, if you want to try it sometime, goes like this: put the tips of your thumb, pointer and pinky fingers on one hand close together, and your middle and ring fingers straight out and together above them, holding your hand kind of parallel to the floor, in the same orientation a cuttle's tentacles would be - this means 'i am a friendly cuttlefish' or, i suppose more scientifically, would be a non-threatening posture communicating interest and curiosity.

I think I've just sprained my wrist trying to achieve that, but the idea fascinates me. Is there any information anywhere about cuttlespeak?

Alas, the only cephspeak I know is "Ow! That's 70% ethanol! Get me out of here!"

Resurrecting an old thread.

Here's the deal. Hypothetically speaking :wink: , if you had a life-sized model of Mesonychoteuthis :meso: , and someone was taking it out to sea (hypothetically speaking of course), and you could do anything you wanted with it (other than destroy it), what would you like to see it do, what sort of situation would you put it in, what sort of questions could you address or would you like to see addressed.

What an offer!

Think 'off the planet' stuff, grounded in science. Put a camera on its back and put it in a school of fish, see what the fish look like with the arms, eyes, mantle and tentacles in the foreground; shoot (film) from beneath in different lighting scenarios to see whether ot not the thing was invisible (from below), and shoot from above (to see if 'invisible' from there); have a diver wrestle with it; have a boat skim the surface, cameraman below boat and squid, and see what that looks like (eerie shot - I can hear the jaws music now); suspend it from different pivot points and see how it looks oriented in different ways, and how it might feed in each; take it somewhere where there are lots of sperm whales (e.g. Kaikoura) ... and put it in the water to see if the whales 'recognise' it (although this could be rather destructive) :whalevsa: ; look at its profile on sonar (as a means of locating it subsequently, the real thing, alive [although I don't know if you could compare a models signature with that of the real thing]; you could certainly say 'wow, it might look like that! ... and in different positions in the water column it might look like this, that or the other ....).

I'm lost for ideas ... terrible shame really ... but the good ol' Tonmo community is never short of an idea. Help needed.
this isnt so much scientific for the squid, but interesting when considering peoples reactions to squid....

find two small fishing towns significantly far apart (or simply get another model to test both towns simultaneously) a couple sides of beef and use of a theatre in one of the towns... sufficently modify the sides of beef (or pork, sheep, etc - anything cheap, the closer to human size and consistancy the better) so that they could be ambigous after being in the ocean and being "nibbled" on and then give em a soak.... have a matinee special with 2-3 movies with a killer squid/octo in one town.... have the meat 'wash up' on the beach and wait a day or two... then use a minisub or diver with a rebreather (no bubbles) to troll the squid past fishing boats around dawn/dusk...

of course, it would be smart to not get linked to this experiment by the communities.... either that or work with/frame a sociologist....

same as always :smile: some people just have an aversion to cephs, im curious as to how a large group would react to a squid...

a battle between reason and gut reaction....
Could we sneak that baby into Lake Ontario? Then I could photograph it 'attacking' me in a canoe and get a much better story than that bozo in Arkansas or those French dudes in the Geronimo.

um... said:

These smileys (smilies?) just keep getting better!

WK .... I think that would be a hard one to sell to someone; think dinner/prime-time viewing :wink:
um... said:
Too bad Phil has to work for a living. It would be nice if he had time to do more animation (and to write more great articles).

You want to see the article ideas lining up. So much for an xmas vacation :smile:
I'd certainly try something like WK and um... suggested.

I'd like to see how salty sea dogs story changes in the telling. Drag a larg squid model past a boat. Then record their reactions. Later interview them in detail and again after some time had elapsed. See if the story changes from:

"A giant squid floated past"


"it was rocking the boat and had one of its tentacles around Jake but I attacked it with an axe and it left us alone".

Folklorists and socilogists have done studies into the way a story changes and mutates over time and it would be interesting to track a giant squid sighting from its start to the final big news reports (there was also 'The Great UFO Hoax' on British TV last moonth and they flew a remote controlled flying saucer around a bit and then recorded people's reactions - their statements were already widly different and greatly exageratted).

I'm sure a number of live giant squid sightings have a kernel of truth (the 19th century boat attack in Newfoundland rported to the Reverend Moses Harvey also came with a tentacle) but I'm also sure they aren't quite as exciting as they are made out to be :wink:

WK, perhaps models of various forms of teuthid could be used as decoys if mounted on the periscopes of submarines? I'm sure the Australian Navy would appreciate Mesonychoteuthis decoys at periscope depth? Perhaps the Norwegian navy could disguise its submarine as as an Architeuthis, eh Clem?

Emperor, do you read Fortean Times by any chance? I think they might employ you!

um... said:
Too bad Phil has to work for a living. It would be nice if he had time to do more animation (and to write more great articles).

Aw shucks, :oops: cheers chaps! Much as I would like to dabble in pseudo-scientific explanations and smiley creation on TONMO, that just is not going to pay for my mortgage. Thanks anyway!
.... 2 weeks before 'hypothetical filming' starts.

Dig deep into your brains and think of weird, wonderful and bizarre things you could do with this model squid, and while you're at it, think of ways the squid could kill the sperm whale.

The 'Face Off' concept now includes a 'Face Off' between scientists, proponents for the whale ... and (sigh; short straw/losing battle) ... for the squid winning.

Tentacles/hooks in blow hole, around boy bits, scraping/gouging the throat and associated internal bleeding, ditto for the head, Colossal packs ganging up on naive young males, colossal-squid beak-induced constipation ....., swivelling hooks in whale eyes, beaks gouging eyes, big-momma squid dragging small whale down ......, colossal squeal disorienting whale and sending it careening to the sea floor, Colossal Venom!

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