National Geographic : 1967 Mar
They are eaten by a host of enemies, from the sperm whale down to the common mackerel. Sperm whales live almost exclusively on squids, from giants more than 50 feet long to small sizes. Lips of most sperm whales, battle scarred from encounters with the giant Archi teuthis (opposite), show deep cuts and lacera tions from the beaks of their prey. Their bodies sometimes bear scars the size of dinner plates, probably caused by suckers pulling in the whales' supple skin. Smaller whales and porpoises also eat squids in vast numbers. One, the pothead or pilot whale, subsists almost exclusively in the North Atlantic on squids of the genus Illex. A curious food cycle involves this squid and the mackerel. On the New England coast in autumn, squids come inshore in great shoals. One of their favorite foods is young mackerel. They dart into the mackerel schools, seize a young fish, take a single bite out of its neck, drop it, and dart off after another. But in the spring the adult mackerel get even. Then fully grown, they chase the young squids and devour them by the thousands. Iberians Cook Squids in Their Own Ink Man, of course, ranks among the squid's most formidable enemies. In many parts of the world, squids play an important economic role. They feed more millions than any other sea staple except the scale-bearing fishes. Cuttlefish shells, or cuttlebones, from Japan and North and East Africa are exported world wide as a dietary supplement for cage birds. Japan uses great quantities of squids for food and fertilizer. In a good year, the United States takes only about 10,000 tons of squids, largely from California waters, whereas in 1963 Japan landed 650,000 tons of the species Todarodes pacificus alone. Portugal and Spain both export canned squid, the major ingredient of that delicious squid-and-rice dish calamares en su tinta squids in their own ink. In eastern Canada, particularly on the Island of Newfoundland, vast numbers of squids are frozen in large blocks and sold as codfish bait. Still, the sup ply appears inexhaustible. Certainly squids are among the commonest of all oceanic life. Oddly enough, we know very little about the squids' life history. Most of our knowledge of their fantastic reproductive techniques has been learned from observing inshore species. Squids and cuttlefishes, unlike some other mollusks, have separate sexes, and the eggs are relatively large, 1/16 of an inch to more than an inch in length. The males seek out the 406 Lethal beak equips the squid for combat in the deep. Powerful mandibles of a Humboldt squid, shown 1/2 life-size, can sever heavy wire. Lower one closes over the upper, unlike a parrot's. Rows of tiny teeth shred food as the tonguelike radula rams chunks down the throat. Like charms on a bracelet, suckers dangle from the arm of a dead giant squid. Strong in life, the stalk and sucker work together, swiveling in any direction. Sucker of a Humboldt squid grasps like a vacuum cup when the stalk contracts. Teeth dig in for a firmer hold.