Monday, January 10, 2011

Rare photos of squid species that can leap through the air to dodge predators

These remarkable photos show one of the most bizarre sights in the natural world.

A British photographer captured a particular type of squid which use jet propulsion to leap out of the sea and fly up to 65ft.

The flying squid swim in shoals and leap from the surface of the water and are often mistaken for the more common flying fish.

The squid actually fly looking backwards, with their tentacles dangling behind them and fins acting like wings, keeping them balanced in the air.

Graham Ekins, 60, a retired deputy head teacher from Boreham, Essex, took the shots in the waters south of Japan.

At first he thought the flying creatures were fish, but when he realised they were squid he got off a few snaps.

They show the eight inch-long blue creatures - Todarodes pacificus in Latin - flying through the air after leaping to avoid predators.

The bow wave from the boat made the squid believe they were being hunted and their instinctive mechanism is to leap out of the sea.

Graham said: 'These squid are often mistaken for flying fish and at first that's what I thought these were.

'I am retired and do a lot of travelling taking wildlife pictures and I was lucky to get these shots.

'These were taken about 1,000 kilometres off the Bonin Islands in the north Pacific, just in Japanese waters.

'There was a group of about 20 flying squid and they sensed danger from the bow wave of the boat and their defence mechanism is to leap out of the water.'

He added: 'However, there is a bird called the red-footed booby - which is like a gannet - that waits for them to leap from the water and then picks them off in the air.

'They have a lot of predators and are an important source of food in Japan. They are prolific reproduces and only live for about a year.

'There are not many photos of them jumping, but people do find them on the decks of their boats in the mornings.

'They jump for about 20 metres - which is a lot less than the flying fish - and use a jet propulsion system.

'They sort of fly backwards with their eyes, tentacles and beak at the rear and their fins act as stabilisers.'

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