Squid Science

Sarah McAnulty
University of Connecticut
Making Waves Teen STEM Café


This blog was written by Teen Leader Noah Stokke


September 24th was our first Making Waves Teen STEM Café at the Texas State Aquarium, Corpus Christi. Guest speaker, Sarah McAnulty of “Skype a Scientist”, skyped in to talk about squid behavior. Although Sarah has worked with cephalopods other than squid, she specializes in the squid immune system and is working with a specific kind of squid called Hawaiian Bobtail Squid.
Sarah showed many videos of squid changing color and told us about the many different and fascinating reasons for a squid to do so. The reason I found this most interesting is that color change is like sign language to them in that they are able to understand the different patterns of another squid. This is the way they communicate! They can also use color change for camouflage and to hypnotize prey. One video she showed made me realize how intelligent squid are, even at a young age. It was a baby squid hunting a shrimp. The squid snuck up on the shrimp and released an ink cloud to conceal itself. Then it attacked from behind the ink and snatched the shrimp with its tentacles. Then she ended with the two ways of how squid can bioluminesce: producing light themselves or a symbiotic relationship between a certain bacteria and the squid. The latter uses a complicated system and is a system that the Hawaiian Bobtail squid uses.
As she wrapped up her talk, I looked around the room and the eyes of the teens were wide, intrigued, and some of them looked a little confused. But then the floor was open for questions and they got to ask whatever they wanted.


Hands on Activity

For the hands on experience, we did a squid dissection. We used California market squid, which are commonly used for fishing bait. We searched for parts such as the gills, beak, ink sack, and pen. The pen is the closest thing a squid has to a skeleton. It is a hard support that runs along the body, and once taken out, it looks like a pen. What you are able to do then is make a slit in the ink sack, dip the pen in, and write with it. The dissection got a little messy when we searched for a lens in the eye. There is no delicate way to cut open a juicy eye.