Opalescent Inshore Squid
Every March an unusual view can be observed near the shores of South California – thousands of squids emerge from the water to mate in the moonlight. Those are the Opalescent Inshore Squids, who look extremely beautiful when the light of the moon shines through their partly translucent bodies.
These small squids, with their body reaching only a size of 20 cm, live in the warm waters near the western coast of North America, from San Francisco to Mexico. They are equipped with eight 5 cm long tentacles and two 20 cm long tentacles for catching and holding the prey. Usually solitary, these squids gather in huge groups during the mating period in March.
These squids feed mostly off fish and crustaceans that they catch with the pair of long tentacles. When hunting, the squid paralyzes the victim with a venom and kills it by biting off the head with the sharp beak, surrounded by the tentacles. The Opalescent Inshore Squids have the ability to change their colour depending on the surroundings, which makes them practically invisible to predators that hunt relying on their vision. Being of such a small size, this squid has many natural predators, escaping from which is helped by the ink which the squid can sprout, to create a black cloud and attempt a quick escape.
Probably the most interesting thing about this species is their mating habits. As mentioned above, in March, the Opalescent Inshore Squids gather near the surface at night, searching for a partner. The males periodically become red when searching for a suited mating partner. The eggs are fertilized inside the female’s body and then she lays them in a kind of a tube, each of which consists of 200-300 eggs. One female lays about 20 tubes, of a total length of 3 metres. Three to four weeks later, young squids hatch and they immediately swim to the surface, where they become part of the plankton, and the streams wash them away in all directions. They take their time developing, reaching sexual maturity only when they’re three years old, and they die immediately after copulation.
Squids are a delicacy in all parts of the world and because of the unique way of mating, Opalescent Inshore Squids are not hard to catch in large quantities. Many fisherman boats patrol the Californian shore at March in search for these small sea animals. The fishermen use a cunning tactic to catch them – as the squids are attracted to light, the boats are equipped with strong lamps, and this way thousands of tons of squids are caught every year. Luckily, the reproductive capabilities of these animals ensure that their numbers remain strong, even despite the fishing.