Friday Squid Blogging

A squid that cares for its young:

But a team of ocean scientists exploring the inky depths of the Monterey Canyon off California has discovered that at least one squid species cares for its young with loving attention, the mother cradling the eggs in her arms for months, waving her tentacles to bathe the eggs in fresh seawater. The scientists suspect that other species are doting parents, too, and that misperceptions about squid behavior have arisen because the deep is so poorly explored.

"Our finding is unexpected because this behavior differs from the reproductive habits of all other known squid species," the scientists wrote in the Dec. 15 issue of Nature. "We expect it to be found in other squids."

Posted on January 6, 2006 at 3:23 PM • 24 Comments

Comments

Pat CahalanJanuary 6, 2006 4:26 PM

Because every once in a while, you have to talk about squid.

Nice personal touch to the blog, Bruce, I didn't know you were a squid fan.

Tobias WeisserthJanuary 6, 2006 4:58 PM

Nice article. Speaking of sealife...

If I want instant sealife I turn to the left of my desk where I can enjoy a pair of breeding Lamprologus multifasciatus from Lake Tanganyika as they are busy extending their domain by carrying large amounts of sand in their mouths beyond their current boundary.

They live in empty snail-shells which they defend furiously against other shell-dwelling fish.

In my tank they have to coexist with a rather boring pair of Neolamprologus brevis, another shell-dwelling species of Lake Tanganyika.

They coexist peacefully as long as each fish stays within its territory. It's interesting though that they both dwell inside shells though they have a very different strategy as to how conceal their shells in the sand (this weblog is about security after all ;-)).

N. brevis covers the shell with sand by lying flat to the ground and propelling sand on it with his tail. When it is finished its shell is on the top of a tiny hill, standing out across the tank with only the opening showing.

N. multifasciatus performs an opposite strategy. It digs away the sand around its shell and carries it several inches away from the shell, leaving the shell openly in a deep crater of sand. It's funny to look at it. The fish is slightly larger than 1,5 inch yet it can move very large amounts of sand in no time just by picking it up with its mouths, swimming a few inches and spit it out.

Milan IlnyckyjJanuary 6, 2006 6:14 PM

This is a case of unjustifiable personification: the attribution of human emotions and motivations in an arena where it is wholly unjustified. We simply cannot assume that squid think the way that we do.

I wouldn't be surprised if there are plenty of circumstances where assuming that other entities act in certain ways for the same reasons we might leads to large breaches of security.

Milan IlnyckyjJanuary 6, 2006 6:22 PM

@Chris Walsh

Not with regard to animals, though I am sure that leads to plenty of gorings and maulings. I meant more in terms of trying to understand the mind of a potential attacker of any kind. The more different they are from us, the worse our intuitions will generally guide us.

jammitJanuary 6, 2006 8:23 PM

It's nice to know that there are species on this planet that are civilized.
It'd be interesting to know what exactly are the predators and how the predators counter attack?

Davi OttenheimerJanuary 6, 2006 9:18 PM

More signs of what Cousteau called "soft intelligence". I guess that means squid really are "cuddlefish" after all. Heh heh.

Gee, first I have to stop eating octopus because they are so caring, friendly and smart...now this. Pretty soon I'll be stuck ordering sea urchin.

B-ConJanuary 7, 2006 12:53 AM

Nice post Bruce, I love squid. Not only are they (semi) cute, but they have such a cool name. I mean, just pronounce it: "squid". Doesn't it sound kinda funny?

squid squid squid squid squid squid squid :-P

B-ConJanuary 7, 2006 1:00 AM

Quote (jammit): "It'd be interesting to know what exactly are the predators and how the predators counter attack?"

Killer whales, also known as orca, are one of their preditors, and, coincetentally, also have a fun name to pronounce. "orca orca orca orca orca...."

Any senario involving either a squid or an orca is automatically humorous. The war-stricken portions of the world would do well to use words like "squid" and "orca" more often. With the correct dosage, we could probably even end the conflict in the Middle East. ;-)

Bruce SchneierJanuary 7, 2006 10:43 AM

"Gee, first I have to stop eating octopus because they are so caring, friendly and smart...now this. Pretty soon I'll be stuck ordering sea urchin."

I think brocolli cares for its young.

jammitJanuary 7, 2006 10:50 AM

"I think brocolli cares for its young."
Aren't there some "humans" that don't care for their young? That could be a viable food source for some.
www.eathufu.com

Nicholas WeaverJanuary 7, 2006 2:58 PM

What IS the origin of the squid-ishness among cryptographers?

I remember the "They have a GIANT SQUID at the Natural History Museum" excitement at the AES conference.

So what's the story behind the squids?

Davi OttenheimerJanuary 7, 2006 3:20 PM

"brocolli cares for its young"

Ha! Funny. Well, at least the squid are supposed to be sustainable and low on pollutants, so there could be other reasons to still eat them.
http://www.mbayaq.org/cr/SeafoodWatch/web/...

Sounds like an historic tradeoff decision was made by squid mothers. Obviously it is safer for her to leave the eggs behind, but the eggs must have a better chance of survival if she carries them along, even with the threat of whale or other predator.

On the other hand if the squid mother was to factor in the risk of being caught in the modern giant trawler nets, perhaps she would start leaving their eggs behind again?

Here are some current statistics on squid mortality by humans in the study area (Monterey Bay Natural Marine Sanctuary) http://swr.nmfs.noaa.gov/fmd/cps/mktsqu.htm

JohnsonJanuary 7, 2006 4:38 PM

I assume there are security parallels in this story. Has anyone thought that maybe it was posted to draw out responses which illustrate misconceptions or biases about how security should really operate?

Bruce SchneierJanuary 7, 2006 10:30 PM

"What IS the origin of the squid-ishness among cryptographers?

"I remember the 'They have a GIANT SQUID at the Natural History Museum' excitement at the AES conference.

"So what's the story behind the squids?"

That was me. I was the one who announced the giant squid at the Natural History Museum at the AES Conference in New York.

I've mentioned giant squids a couple of other times at cryptography conferences here and there.

I think it's all my fault.

Davi OttenheimerJanuary 8, 2006 5:12 PM

@ Milan

What's with the disdain for squid and personifying their survival?

In your own blog on Jan 5th you state "Rigorous scientific assessments, like those of the Sea Around Us Project present an extensive and alarming body of evidence that world fisheries are in trouble and that, at present, nothing effective is being done about it."

Seems like you would be one of the first folks to stand up and support trying to understand how the squid lives and survives.

And just to try out a pedantic point similar to your own, I feel compelled to ask if your fascination with fisheries is an early-life throwback to childhood enjoyment of Herman Melville novels?

Ed T.January 9, 2006 6:51 AM

@B-Con:

Another predator IIRC is the swordfish. Anyway, on ESPN2 yesterday (a show called "Offshore Adventures") they were catching lots of giant squid off of Baja California, when a swordfish made an appearance and all the squid crash-dived.

-EdT.

Milan IlnyckyjJanuary 9, 2006 6:56 AM

I certainly didn't intent the Jules Verne comment critically. I agree that giant squid are fascinating creatures, and I would speculate that the first (and possibly most dramatic) exposure many people in English speaking countries have to them is reading or watching "20000 Leagues Under the Sea."

My initial objection was simply to the idea that squid behaviour can and should be understood according to human standards and thought processes. Such treatment is more likely to obscure proper understanding of the creatures than to reveal it.

My apologies if I have caused offence to anyone.

jayhJanuary 9, 2006 11:09 AM

>>My initial objection was simply to the idea that squid behaviour can and should be understood according to human standards and thought processes. Such treatment is more likely to obscure proper understanding of the creatures than to reveal it.

The problem is more in assuming that human behavior is somehow profound. Our feeling emotional satisfaction in protecting offspring is merely the interface where the ancient instinct touches the conscious. We, like the squid are ruled by eons of programmed behavior despite our attempts to put a 'human' label on it.

Pat CahalanJanuary 9, 2006 11:26 AM

> The problem is more in assuming that human behavior is somehow profound.

Now we're off security blogging and into metaphysics.

radiantmatrixJanuary 10, 2006 10:45 AM

@Pat:

Security and Metaphysics aren't that far apart. They both deal with concepts that are largely intangible, often highly subjective, and have spawned ritualistic (and often largely pointless) behavior.

We even have Holy Wars! And who here hasn't prayed that Windows will work today? (*ducks*)

Pat CahalanJanuary 10, 2006 11:55 AM

@ radiantmatrix

{laugh} Good point. Shall we hijack this thread and turn it into a holy flame war regarding the relative profoundness of human vs. animal behavior?

mud and flameJanuary 11, 2006 4:18 PM

@Milan Ilnyckyj:
"This is a case of unjustifiable personification: the attribution of human emotions and motivations in an arena where it is wholly unjustified. We simply cannot assume that squid think the way that we do."

I can't quite make out what you're objecting to. If it's the references to "loving attention," "doting," and so forth, I thought that was obviously tongue-in-cheek and not intended to be taken literally. But I don't see any reason why the underlying research -- discovering parental care in a squid -- should be considered anthropomorphism.

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