Squid in fright take flight, really bolt


Some squid can fly more than 30 meters through the air at speeds faster than sprint king Usain Bolt if they need to escape predators, Hokkaido University researchers said Friday.

The mollusks propel themselves out of the ocean by shooting a jet of water at high pressure, then open their fins to glide at speeds of up to 11.2 meters per second, Jun Yamamoto of the university said. Bolt averaged 10.31 meters a second when he bagged gold at last year’s Summer Games.

The study by Yamamoto’s team was published in the current issue of the German science magazine Marine Biology.

Yamamoto and his team were tracking a shoal of about 100 squid from the Ommastrephidae family 600 km east of Tokyo in July 2011 when the 20-cm creatures suddenly launched themselves into the air with powerful jets of water that shot out from their funnel-like stems.

“Once they finish shooting out the water, they glide by spreading out their fins and arms. As they land back in the water, the fins are all folded back into place to minimize the impact,” Yamamoto’s team said in the report.

The researchers snapped a photo showing more than 20 squid in full flight.

The squid remain airborne for about three seconds and travel upward of 30 meters.

Yamamoto believes it is a defense mechanism to escape being eaten. But he added that being out of the ocean presents new threats, leaving the cephalopods vulnerable to other predators.

“This finding means that we should no longer consider squid as things that live only in the water. It is highly possible that they are also a source of food for seabirds,” he said.