Octopus and squid are, by far, Leslie’s favorite underwater animals and throughout our time in Grand Cayman this year, we enjoyed many encounters. To be fair to the squid’s Pacific cousins, she also enjoys cuttlefish as well. Collectively, those three animals make up one entire subclass of cephalopods, called Coleoidea.
One of the most amazing facets of this group is how quickly and frequently they change colors and textures. Sure a peacock flounder can hide its spots to blend in with the sand and goatfish often turn reddish-brown while while eating, but their skills pale by comparison to the speed, frequency and variety of change displayed by cephalopods .
Several encounters this year really stood out. On our first morning dive, we came across a shoal (formal group name) of seven or eight squid swimming in tight formation. At first, they were close and side-by-side. After a while, they all fanned in unison and turned to face same direction …kind of like they were airplanes coming in for a landing. It was very interesting to watch the entire group move like a well choreographed dance troupe.
On another morning dive, we spotted a couple of squid floating over the reef. They didn’t seem to care that we were around, so I was able to get fairly close. As it turns out, it wasn’t that they didn’t care…it was that they were preoccupied! I didn’t realize it at the time, but they were in full on courtship.
I managed to catch the two during their mating ritual. In the video, you will see the male change from brown stripes to a translucent gray color just before approaching the female. The male uses one of its tentacles to fertilize the eggs in the female.
One of our evening dives proved to be very special for Leslie as we came across a curious and friendly squid. At one point, Leslie tried to place her lobster tickler (which has notches at one inch intervals) next to it to see how big it was and the squid used its tentacles to check it out.
Clearly not shy, the squid backed up and took a closer look at Leslie. As a friendly gesture, Leslie stuck her finger out and they briefly touched in what I am sure felt to her like Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam.” Perhaps it wasn’t that dramatic, but Leslie lovingly named it Squishy and we spent the rest of our dives hoping to see Squishy again.
Unfortunately, none of the other squid could live up to such a high bar. Maybe we will see Squishy or its offspring down the road.