Squid romance

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Oval squid swimming in parallel. The larger squid is the male, and the small squid is the female.
Chun-Yen Lin, Institute of Molecular Medicine, National Tsing Credit: Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan

When it comes to body language, oval squid are the Shakespeares of cephalopods, able to transform their skin with lines, spots and stripes of varying shades and complexities to eloquently express their hopes, desires and fears to prospective lovers and potential foes.

Three months of observing oval squid in the East China Sea, near Taipei, has enabled researchers from Tsing Hua University to decipher the the meaning of the symbols and shapes with which the oval squid decorate themselves. Their research, published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, documents five common behaviour patterns, with their own intricate movements and tone signals, dependent on the individual’s standing in the group.

In this photo, taken by Chun-Yen Lin of Tsing Hua’s Institute of Molecular Medicine, a smaller female squid swims alongside the larger male. A dark pattern on her body would indicate a rejection of a suitor’s advances.

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