It's True! Squids Suck by Nicki Greenberg

By Nicki Greenberg

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When archaeologists investigated the wreck of a 2000‑year-old Roman ship near Marseilles, France, they discovered that the Common Mediterranean Octopuses (Octopus vulgaris) had moved in. This was great for the octopuses, who each had a perfect, custom‑made apartment. But it was a major headache for the archaeologists . . The ship’s cargo included many amphorae (Roman clay jugs for water, wine and oil) which had broken into pieces. There were also plenty of older Greek relics at the site, so it should have been an archaeologist’s dream.

Cephalopod ink is made of highly concentrated melanin which is the pigment (colour) that makes some people dark‑haired and dark‑skinned. The melanin produced by cephalopods is so strong that just a few milligrams squirted out in a jet of water will form an impressive dark cloud. A cephalopod can adjust the direction of its funnel so that the cloud of ink shoots out between it and the predator. This distracts 36 the predator or acts as a ‘smoke screen’, giving the cephalopod time to change direction and escape.

Cephalopod ink doesn’t dissolve in water. After a short time, it turns into grey, cobweb-like threads that drift in the water and snag on rocks. To find out about some of the interesting ways that humans use cephalopod ink, have a look at chapter 8. 37 Image rights unavailable 38 5 Masters of disguise When you see squids or octopuses in the seafood section of the market, they usually have a whiteish, perhaps a mottled, pinkish-purple skin. Seeing them dead like this, you would never know that they were once brilliantly coloured shape-shifters.

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