Stunning Squid Pictures
From the giant squid to microscopic squid babies, squids are beautiful and fascinating. As cephalopods, the same family as octopuses and cuttlefish, they have no bones, and swim head-first through the water with their 8 arms (and a pair of tentacles, in some species) trailing behind them. Some squids are brilliantly colored, with the ability to change the color of their skin to communicate, attract a mate, or defend against predators using chromatophores. They swim by jet propulsion, shooting seawater from a funnel, and some squids can even fly out of the water! Click through this slideshow of underwater photos of squids to see some of their stunning diversity.
Squid at Sunset Reef
“Upon returning from the reef after a night dive, I swam toward a bright reflection and came eye-to-eye with this beautiful, curious squid," says Nature's Best photographer Charles Viggers of this squid he photographed in the Cayman Islands. Squids have organs in their skin called chromatophores that reflect light and can change color to help them blend into their surroundings, attract mates—or attract photographers.
Charles Viggers/Nature’s Best Photography
The “jewels” covering the body of this beautiful jewel squid (Histioteuthis bonnellii) are bioluminescent photophores. But these squids can't bargain for their lives with those jewels: they have been found in the stomachs of sperm whales, swordfish and sharks.
David Shale/MAR-ECO, Census of Marine Life
This transparent cockatoo squid, or glass squid, retains liquids, giving it a balloon-like shape and helping it float. It has large eyes to see in the deep sea where it lives, and pigment-filled cells (chromatophores) that look like polka dots and serve as camouflage.
Marsh Youngbluth/MAR-ECO, Census of Marine Life
First Giant Squid Photographed in Natural Habitat
The first live photo of a giant squid in its natural habitat was taken in 2004 by two Japanese researchers who had suspended a long line from their research vessel with a camera and bait attached.
First Giant Squid on VideoThe first giant squid to be caught on video alive was this 24-foot beauty, filmed in 2006. It wasn't in its natural habitat, however: the researchers caught her with bait and then pulled her to the surface for filming.
Tsunemi Kubodera of the National Museum of Nature and Science of Japan/AP
First Giant Squid Filmed Live in Natural HabitatIn 2012, researchers caught a giant squid on film in its natural habitat for the first time! Watch the video and read a blog post from the Smithsonian's own giant squid hunter, Clyde Roper.
Jumbo Squid (aka Humboldt Squid)
A humboldt squid (aka the jumbo squid) releases a cloud of ink at night in Mexico's Sea of Cortez. These large, carnivorous squids can reach more than 5 feet in length and travel in shoals of 1,000 squids. Although they have historically been found in the Pacific off the coast of Mexico, warmer and more oxygen-poor waters caused by global warming have allowed them to expand their range northward up the western coast of the United States.
Brian Skerry, National Geographic
Armhook SquidThe Boreoatlantic armhook squid is named for its fabulous (but dangerous) suckers. While most squids have just two rows of suckers lining each arm, armhook squids have four—and the middle two rows have small, sharp hooks protruding from the center. These hooks are used to capture prey and as a defense.
Hidden Ocean 2005, NOAA
Glowing photophores are visible on this midwater squid (Abralia veranyi) viewed from below at low light levels. We think of light as a way to see in the dark. But many species use it to help them hide. This adaptation is called counterillumination. Seen from below, an animal might stand out as a dark shape against the brighter water above. By glowing on its underside, it can blend in.
E. Widder, ORCA, www.teamorca.org
California Market Squid
Two California market squids (Loligo opalescens) mate in the waters off of California's Channel Islands. While spawning, the males' arms blush red as he embraces the female; a warning to other competing males to back-off.
© Brian Skerry, www.brianskerry.com
Arrow Squid Embryo
Smaller than the head of a pin, this arrow squid (Doryteuthis plei) embryo looks like a miniature adult and is almost ready to hatch! Depending on the squid species, the development from a fertilized egg to a nearly-hatched larva can take one or several weeks. The embryo grows in its own egg-sac, which keeps it separate from other developing embryos nearby and provides it food. Once the yolk sac breaks, the new larvae will drift in the ocean waves as zooplankton. And if it's lucky enough to not be eaten by a predator, it will continue growing into an adult squid.
©Clyde F.E. Roper
Arrow Squid Babies
These newly hatched arrow squid larvae (Doryteuthis plei) are each tinier than the head a pin. Free from their yolk sac, they will drift with the current out to sea as zooplankton. Many animals eat zooplankton, so few will survive to adulthood and to reproduce themselves.
©Clyde F.E. Roper
Larval Squid, Coast of Kailua Kona, Hawaii, USA“This image was captured during an evening dive in water where the largest migration on Earth occurs nightly," said Nature's Best Photographer Joshua Lambus. The migration he speaks of is the diel migration, when squids, copepods and other animals migrate to the surface at night to feed and then back down to the depths during the day. "This miniscule squid was less than an inch long, transparent, and highly reflective, which made proper exposure extremely difficult. Over hundreds of dives, I have become familiar with this species, its inherent shyness, and the varying range of exposure requirements. Albeit challenging, photographing unusual subjects in new frontiers keeps me shooting.”
Joshua Lambus/Nature's Best Photography
Bigfin Squid Specimen
This new species of squid (Magnapinna sp.) was discovered in 1954 in the stomach of a lancetfish.
Squids and Cephalopod Diversity
Pacific cephalopods illustrate the wide diversity among this group of mollusks.
© 1996 (1), 1996 (2), 1996 (3), 1996 (4), 1998 (5), 1996 (6), 1996 (7), 1996 (8) R. E. Young, Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory (2), Mark Norman (3), David Paul (4), Mark Norman (5), Thomas Burch (6), R. E. Young (7), R. E. Young (8)