Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fireflies of the sea

I have blogged about fireflies, and I have blogged about squid, but I had never heard of firefly squid until now.* Watasenia scintillans, as they are officially known, are common to the Pacific waters near Japan, where they are dragged up by the netful. They are caught by the ton between March and June in the fishing village of Toyama Bay, where underwater features in the Japanese Sea force them to the surface, and the glowing sight draws many tourists. "The lights from thousands of firefly squid can flash in unison or alternate in an endless number of animated patterns. These light shows are thought to serve several functions. They can be used to communicate with potential mates or rivals. They may also be used to disguise the squid's shape and confuse predators, allowing it to escape. On the other hand, it is believed that the squid can also use their blue lights to attract prey. By flashing the lights on and off, they can attract small fish and then pounce on them with their powerful tentacles." The 3" squid are gobbled up by other sea creatures, birds, and the Japanese, who consider them a delicacy. While they probably don't have self-awareness of their beautiful blue, firefly squid are believed to be the only cephalopods that see in color.

*Thanks, Shelley!

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