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What is a squid?

Courtesy of  Mrs. Penella Goulding's Class

Illustration copyright AUSD.  All rights reserved.

Fun & Facts

Yes, on this page we are actually going to give you a short physical and biological description of that fascinating creature, the Common Squid - and some information and myths about an even more fascinating creature, the Giant Squid.

The Squid Guys

If you expected a description of one of the "Squid Guys," sorry, you won't find it here.  If you just wanted to learn why the Korczak Boys named the store Squid's Market, you will find that story on the About Us page.

 But stick around. 

Squid really are fascinating creatures, though very ugly. 


Courtesy of  Mrs. Penella Goulding's Class

Illustration copyright AUSD. All rights reserved.

Soft Bodied

Sometimes described as soft-bodied, the term really doesn't apply as they have a hood with tentacles attached --- no body.  They've also been described as invertebrates (without a backbone) and that's true, thank goodness.  If they did have a backbone, it would have to be a backbone in their head --- and they're weird enough creatures without that!  They are classed as cephalopods, a Greek word meaning head-foot.  Notice, no body mentioned.

Courtesy of  Mrs. Penella Goulding's Class

Illustration copyright AUSD. All rights reserved.

Scary Equipment

So what do they have?  Well, a large head, a large brain, two small fins like ears, huge eyes, a siphon, a beak that can cut wire, a mouth, eight arms or tentacles with two rows of suckers, and two longer arms or tentacles with palms!  

Their eyes are large and placed on the sides of their heads affording them terrific vision.  Good thing, too, as optometrists are rare in the ocean depths.  Optometrists would be relatively safe from these small squid, though.  They sport scary equipment, are extremely plentiful, and are carnivorous, but their tastes usually do not include humans, just plankton, fish, crabs, and other squid!


These little fellows have defense mechanisms that include ability to change colors for camouflage, shoot ink into the water to hide, and give off light to confuse enemies.  If those measures don't work, there's always flight using jet propulsion by bringing water into their mantle and pushing it out through their siphon.  With three hearts, one for the body system and one for each gill, they can pump oxygen quickly to muscles giving them extra strength.  They can move fast and, using fins and siphon, can make quick direction changes.  You may have heard they can fly through the air.  In a manner of speaking, this is true.  They can make leaps out of the water. 

A lot of impressive equipment! 

But three hearts!  What a cardiologists nightmare!

"Armed" with Sperm

With the squid being bodiless, you are probably wondering how they, well, uh, have babies.  Well, they do have a mating season when they congregate at the surface of the sea, probably comparable to people gathering at a Saturday night dance.  The male has a sex arm, the fourth from the left.  Presumably it's also used for other occupations. It has little finger projections at the tip. 

Squid Romance

With this arm, he deposits sperm under the mantle of a female, next to her eggs.  I have been unable to discover exactly how he does this, but the finger projections convey a picture of reaching into his back pocket, grabbing a few elusive sperm, and gripping them firmly in his hot little fist until he finds a handy mantle to fit them under.  If so, he must be unable to use that arm for dancing at the gathering; it'd be too busy holding on to those elusive little sperm.

Dance of Life

So it would seem male squids are clumsy dancers tottering around on an uneven number of seven tentacles, dragging two long tentacles behind.  Female squid must become quite incensed with the clumsy dancing and the attempts to reach under their mantles all the while. Yet squid have successfully populated the ocean with their kind, being second only to fish.


Ugly and weird they may be but harmless enough and, for some people, a tasty morsel for supper known as Calamira.

That's it for the Common Squid.  

Before we examine myth and fact about the not-so-harmless Giant Squid, if you wish to learn more about the Common Squid, check out the links below.  You'll find more real facts than presented here, and you may even find a recipe or two! 

  Yes, I must confess that I have not been secretly hoarding these coveted facts about the fascinating squid in my head for years. I had to do a little research.


A special thank you to Mrs. Penella Goulding's 4th-grade class for their very clear presentation of the Common Squid and for the illustrations they so kindly permitted me to reproduce on this page.


These are the web sites I researched, 

but they are not to be held responsible for the contents of this page:

Mrs. Penella Goulding's 4th-grade

The Wild Ones Teacher Connection

Marine Institute: Network of Educational Topics

Smithsonian Magazine

Enchanted Learning - Zoom School


Now on to the Giant Squid - an even BIGGER fascination.

What is A Squid? Part II

  The Giant Squid - Myth & Fact


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