We’ve all heard of flying fish, but flying squid? Launching themselves through the air, these astounding creatures have only recently been documented out of water as they cruise alongside speeding marine craft. Despite the rare sightings, flying squid are, in fact, bountiful across the world’s oceans. Many ocean-goers may have witnessed a flying squid without knowing what it was.
Neon flying squid (Akaika)
Researchers from Hokkaido University in Japan cross-examined a shoal of 100 squid hundreds of miles off the coast of Tokyo. The scientists specifically sought the neon flying squid. This species can fly for more than 100 feet (30 m) for up to three seconds as it escapes predators. This 8-inch-long (20 cm) cephalopod propels itself from the water by opening its frontal mantle, a technique that allows it to draw in water. Consequently, the high-pressure jet of water launches the squid. Once airborne, the squid spreads out its various fins and arms (10 arms and two feeding tentacles), which allows it to glide through the air, at times with great speed, before folding back its fins to re-enter the water.
Distribution and habitat
Located throughout the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, neon flying squid generally congregate along cold-water fronts. Here, they feed on phytoplankton and zooplankton near the surface at night. These squid live most of their lives descending to depths of 1,000 feet (300 m) and obtain an average life expectancy of one year. eon flying squid are a stunning mauve color and will grow up to 24 inches (60 cm) long.
Often targeted by commercial drift-net fishing operations — especially the Japanese — we know that the squid spend their summer and fall months in the northern latitudes before heading south during the winter to spawn. Neon flying squid play an important role in the pelagic ecosystem. And, as with so many other species in the pelagic zone, both fishing demand and warming oceans are major threats.