Jun 22 2011

Squid Studies: Scientists Seeking and Savoring Squid

William Gilly, a professor of biology at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station, embarked on new expedition this month to study jumbo squid in the Gulf of California on the National Science Foundation–funded research vessel New Horizon. This is his second blog post about the trip.

By William Gilly

SEA OF CORTEZ— As we moved up the Gulf towards Guaymas, we continued to prepare our equipment. Actually, this will be a never-ending focus for the next two weeks. A research cruise in most cases is a creation in progress, and ‘equipment’ in our case ranges from Brad Seibel’s industrial-scale plumbing system for keeping big squid alive during experiments to our collection of fishing gear to catch squid. Everything will need constant, meticulous attention.

We arrived in Guaymas mid-afternoon and collected the rest of our party by 7 pm and immediately headed out to deep water about 10 miles offshore for our first exploratory squid jigging session. We arrived around 10:00 pm at the chosen site where a finger-like canyon poked back toward Guaymas. We immediately began to catch squid, and this had a predictable effect. We believe that catching a squid automatically triggers joyful exuberance. We have seen this phenomenon hundreds of times over the last decade. If there is photo of someone frowning while holding up a squid for the camera, we would like to see it. We doubt such an image exits.

Within an hour or so we collected our target sample of 20 to 30 squid. They were lined up sequentially on deck, measured, weighed, sexed and assessed for stage of maturity. This is information is simple but vital for two main reasons.

First, it is necessary to confirm the size of animals being sampled by the scientific sonar system on board that is being used by the Oregon State group. Acoustic data collected shows the depth where the squid and their prey are, and it can also be used to calculate numbers of squid or biomass – but only if you know how large the squid are that are being sampled acoustically. This is standard fare for acoustic assessment of fin-fish fisheries around the world, but use of such methods with squid is much less widespread. Kelly Benoit-Bird’s team from Oregon State is doing pioneering work in this area, and her insights and creativity were recognized with a MacArthur award in 2010.

Read the rest at Scientific American.

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