Sunday, June 24, 2012

Top 5 Cephalod Super Powers

5. Water Rockets

The torpedo-like bodies of squid are built more for speed than the baggy, gelatinous form of an octopus, but you can only move so fast through fluid. When squid near the surface need to make a quick getaway, they can propel themselves clear out of the water and soar through the air for several yards, flattening their tentacles into a set of gliding fins and even squirting water to keep themselves airborne.

4. Venomous Beaks
The tiny blue ringed octopus is as adept at camouflage as any other octopod, but when that doesn’t work, it reverts to the special pattern it was named for, a last-ditch warning sign to back off. One bite from this little critter’s beak packs enough tetrodotoxin to paralyze or kill a full grown human. Not that you need much, since tetrodotoxin, believed to be a by-product of symbiotic bacteria, is 10,000 times more toxic than an equivalent amount of cyanide. Scientists now believe that most, if not all octopuses, have a venomous bite- but few concentrate anywhere near as much as this five inch monster.

3. Light Cloak
In the permanent night of the deep sea abyss, one would think that luminescent animals stand out like a sore thumb, and sometimes they do – many creatures at these depths emit light to attract prey, startle predators or communicate to potential mates. Others, however, especially certain squid, emit light to *hide* in the darkness. The eyes of many deep sea predators are so sensitive to the miniscule traces of sunlight from above that solid objects (such as tasty squid) still appear darker to them than the surrounding water, so by generating just enough light from its entire surface, a squid can fool these predators and camouflage itself against the faint, faint light of a world that, to us, appears pitch black.

2. Borrowed Stingers
Cnidarians such as jellyfish and anemones are well known for their venomous stings, actually thousands of microscopic venom-filled cells equipped with their own sensitive “harpoons.” Cephalopods have nothing like these microscopic weapons, but that doesn’t stop them from using them. The tremoctopus already mentioned has been known to rip tentacles off Portuguese Man O’ War, carrying them around as weapons to sting persistent attackers. Another group of octopuses, the bizarre Argonauta or “paper nautili,” have sometimes been observed attaching themselves to the tops of jellyfish, dragging them around for protection and even chewing through their stomachs so they can still feed.

1. Shape Shifting
The mesmerizing and highly unique “mimic octopus” of Indonesia isn’t satisfied with blending into corals and seaweed, but uses the natural flexibility of octopuses to imitate completely different animals, even jumping between multiple forms in a flash. They may flatten out and swim like a flounder, stretch two tentacles into the shape of a deadly sea snake, bunch up into a false starfish and many other sneaky disguises- all while changing color patterns to match. It typically imitates venomous or unappetizing animals, but simply changing forms at all can be enough to confuse an attacker.

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