Lovely and sad

Watch the communal spawning of squid off the California coast.

It’s the last thing they do: one huge orgy of mating, and then they collapse, spent and dying.


  1. #1 Mus
    April 27, 2008

    Why is it that someone ALWAYS has to call them “fish” in all these documentaries? I mean seriously, they’re supposed to be knowledgeable about squid and they’re calling them FISH?

  2. #2 MAJeff, OM
    April 27, 2008

    Le not-so-petite mort.

  3. #3 PZ Myers
    April 27, 2008

    Fishermen use the word “fish” in the context of fisheries — so you can go fishing for crab, or squid, or whale, or even true teleost fish. It’s a word that has been rendered radically generic in defiance of biological taxonomy.

  4. #4 Richard Harris
    April 27, 2008

    It’s all part of god’s cunning plan. Those that take part in an orgy deserve to die! And it’s Intelligent Design – they don’t even need to stone the sinners amongst themselves.

  5. #5 Mena
    April 27, 2008

    What a great way to go…

  6. #6 Cuttlefish, OM
    April 27, 2008

    @#4– a riposte, repost:

    For squid or starfish, perch or porgy,
    There’s nothing like an ocean orgy
    Where, unlike silly human rules,
    Of course we want more sex in schools
    Monogamy’s against the norms
    For those who have their sex in swarms!
    Indeed, were there some fishy prude–
    Who found such conduct simply rude,
    And lectured others on their morals,
    Preached of Sodom in the corals–
    This Jerry Falwell of the waves
    Would be the one who misbehaves!
    The squid who do their moral duty
    Join the swarm and shake their booty!
    It’s good, and not just glamorous,
    When squid are polyamorous,
    For in the moral code of shellfish,
    Rule number one is “Don’t be selfish”.

  7. #7 G. Lloyd
    April 27, 2008

    Yeah, but this is akin to a geriatric orgy since they’re older squid, right? Now if it were younger squid… hubba hubba.

  8. #8 Dennis N
    April 27, 2008

    “Fish” is just referencing a kind.

  9. #9 Dennis N
    April 27, 2008

    Just a joke

  10. #10 craig
    April 27, 2008

    For some reason I’m reminded of the 1980s.

  11. #11 craig
    April 27, 2008

    “Now if it were younger squid… hubba hubba.”


    (It doesn’t have to make sense, its a joke and I’m very tired.)

  12. #12 John Phillips, FCD
    April 27, 2008

    Cuttlefish: once again, kudos.

  13. #13 chuckgoecke
    April 27, 2008

    Utterly fascinating and beautiful videography. The Cousteau family are definitely still in the game. When I see what can be produced by a French (who a-hole Americans constantly berate) military-science consortium (Jacque was an Admiral in the French Navy) it just makes me sick to think of our military mis-adventures. The French provide such a contrast to how our country could act.

  14. #14 scooter
    April 27, 2008

    That one squid in the far left of the third shot is REALLY HOT!!

  15. #15 dale
    April 27, 2008

    God, I wish I could be one of them. Soooo hot.

  16. #16 Holydust
    April 27, 2008

    This post isn’t about French/American relations or how much the country I live in sucks on a scale of 1-to-10, chuck.

    PZ: I almost cried. I really almost cried. :/ *fist wave* See what you’re doing to us! YOU’RE MAKING US CARE!

  17. #17 Longtime Lurker
    April 27, 2008

    Squid, the Errol Flynns of the sea. Cuttlefish, you truly represent the pinnacle of human achievement.

  18. #18 Crudely Wrott
    April 27, 2008

    You are a rascal, Cuttlefish. A damned clever one. I can think of no higher praise right now.

  19. #19 pcarini
    April 27, 2008


    I prefer Cephalopodopedophile, for sheer length and awkwardness.

    What sort of protection is there for the eggs? It seems like a lot of free food around the egg bed could be a bad idea, unless the dead squid are tastier…

  20. #20 Mrs Tilton
    April 27, 2008

    So now we understand the tragedy of Dr Zoidberg’s people.

    Oh, and yeah: Cuttlefish rules OK.

  21. #21 Forrest Prince
    April 27, 2008

    From the video, at the very end:

    “…and the cycle will begin again.”

    That’s the point. As sad as this appears to us mere mortal humans, death is always the final act of life. In my Humanist philosophy, there is nothing to be feared about death, nor is there any overwhelming reason to grieve, although certainly we do grieve when a loved one dies, and appropriately so. It’s a natural human emotion to feel loss, to feel that something beautiful has been taken away from us. But when conducting a secular memorial service, I remind those attending that without death life could not go on. If we were were immortal and kept reproducing, our species (and probably our planet itself) would have long ago gone extinct through unsustainability. On the other hand, if we were immortal and did not reproduce, it is not idle speculation to ask “how soon then would life become so boring that we would end up desiring death above all else, yet it ever remained unattainable?” To live forever, with no new human life coming into the world with new ideas and inventions, would be hell to me. A life of eternity without children? How could I care about living, about life itself? If immortal, what could we possibly have to measure the precious gift of life against?

    We die so that our children can live. We die so that “…the cycle will begin again.” These squid live only a couple of years. Most of the time humans live for decades, sometimes over a century, sadly sometimes only a day or less. Some trees live for thousands of years. Yet eventually every living thing will, and must, die so that life can go on.

    Lovely, and sad indeed, both at the same time and yet in wonderful balance of measure. Life and death are but measures of the grand natural world we inhabit. As Ingersoll noted “The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now.”

  22. #22 andrew
    April 27, 2008

    “We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.”
    -Richard Dawkin’s Unweaving the Rainbow

    nuff said.

  23. #23 The Science Pundit
    April 27, 2008

    Dying shortly after mating is a not uncommon trait for animals (and many plants too, I guess) that don’t rear their young.

  24. #24 bigjohn756
    April 27, 2008

    “It’s the last thing they do: one huge orgy of mating, and then they collapse, spent and dying.”

    Remind you of anyone…?

  25. #25 Greta Christina
    April 27, 2008

    “It’s the last thing they do: one huge orgy of mating, and then they collapse, spent and dying.”

    Damn. That is so totally how I want to go. Maybe when it’s my time, I’ll be able to find a nice Orgy Hospice.

  26. #26 Sarah
    April 27, 2008

    Beautiful–thanks for sharing. :-) DH and I often joke that we plan to go simultaneously while making love at the age of, oh, 100 or so, so sign us up for that orgy hospice too. :-)

  27. #27 Quiet Desperation
    April 27, 2008

    Ah. Tentacle porn.

    You might have a future as a hentai director, PZ!

  28. #28 Alan
    April 27, 2008

    Death by snu-snu!!

  29. #29 J
    April 27, 2008

    #28 Yaaaay!!!

  30. #30 weemaryanne
    April 27, 2008

    Poignant, yes. Sad, no. Forrest Prince has it right — life and death are merely stages of the journey.

  31. #31 KiwiInOz
    April 27, 2008

    Ah, Cuttlefish, OM. Just when I think that it is impossible for you to excel beyond your last offering, you smack me down.

  32. #32 Martin Hutton
    April 27, 2008

    From Roger McGough, 1967: “A Young Man’s Death”

    Let me die a youngman’s death
    not a clean and inbetween
    the sheets holywater death
    not a famous-last-words
    peaceful out of breath death

    When I’m 73
    and in constant good humour
    may I be mown down at dawn
    by a bright red sports car
    on my way home
    from an all night party

    Or when I’m 91
    with silver hair
    and sitting in a barber’s chair
    may rival gangsters
    with hamfisted tommyguns burst in
    and give me a short back and insides

    Or when I’m 104
    and banned from the Cavern
    may my mistress
    catching me in bed with her daughter
    and fearing for her son
    cut me up into little pieces
    and throw away every piece…but one

    Let me die a youngman’s death
    not a free from sin tiptoe in
    candle wax and waning death
    not a curtains drawn by angels borne
    ‘what a nice way to go’ death

  33. #33 Bride of Shrek
    April 27, 2008

    Sounds ideal to me, I’d like to not be around afterwards to have to look after the kids. No more night feeds, no more toddler tantrums, no more food flung into the furtherest reaches of the house, no more pooey nappies…..sigh, I can only dream.

  34. #34 Forrest Prince
    April 27, 2008

    weemaryanne at #30, thank you for your kind comment.

    Here’s another way I look at life and death. (author unknown):

    “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave, safely,
    in a well-preserved body,
    but rather to come skidding in sideways,
    totally worn out,
    “Holy Shit! What a ride!” “

  35. #35 natural cynic
    April 28, 2008

    “Live fast, die young and leave a good looking corpse”.

    – Nick Romano in the novel Knock On Any Door” by Willard MOtely [1947] and played in the 1949 movie of the same name by John Derek(later Bo’s beau). Directed by Nicholas Ray, who went on to direct James Dean.

    – and heard frequently in Beserkeley circa 1969

  36. #36 wazza
    April 28, 2008

    The spare eggs make up part of the plankton supply

    it’s all part of the miracle of nature

  37. #37 uncle noel
    April 28, 2008

    Better to have spawned and lost…
    But really, why aren’t there more predators interfering with the action here, and cleaning up the aftermath? I mean, if we could predict it, why can’t a school of tuna? Few night feeders there? (forgive if answer is mentioned in vid: can’t listen at work)

  38. #38 MikeB
    April 28, 2008

    Fry: So you have to choose between life without sex and a hideous, gruesome death?
    Dr. Zoidberg: Yes.
    Fry: Man, tough call.

  39. #39 Quiet_Desperation
    April 28, 2008

    The French provide such a contrast to how our country could act.

    Gee, Chuck, tell us about how the French act.

    Would a standard issue French person manage to turn a thread about mating sea creatures into an unprovoked, pointless, raving anti-American diatribe, thus making a complete and utter assclown of himself?

  40. #40 Sengkelat
    April 28, 2008

    What disturbs me is that the squid mate near the surface, then head down to deposit their eggs…which means the ones that are caught are caught before they’re done producing the next generation. That is the sad part, not that the squid die after mating.

    Of course, the fishermen say that the squid yields are better than ever. Is that because there are more squid, or because the fishermen are getting better at getting them all? And if there are fewer baby squid, what effect does that have on fish that eat baby squid?

  41. #41 Sven DiMilo
    April 28, 2008

    Beautiful, beautiful squid.
    I was jarred by an anthropocentric statement near the beginning, something like “the squid are located in a fishery near the Channel Islands…” Huh? The squid are located in a fishery? Surely the fishery is located where the squid are (were, and will be).

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