Marine biologists have long known that giant Humboldt squid communicate by rapidly changing their body color in flashes of red and white. But what message do the flashes send?
A new video brings scientists one step closer to answering that question.
Researchers at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, Calif., mounted "Crittercams" to the backs of the big carnivorous squid, National Geographic reported. And when they checked the video (above), the scientists saw quite a show.
The video showed the five- to six-foot-long cephalopods changing colors. It also showed them making arm-to-arm contact, which the scientists believe might have been mating attempts.
How are the squid able to change color? A Humboldt squid appears to flash shades of red or white when the pigmented cells that cover its body, called chromatophores, expand or contract.
"The frequency and phase relationships [synchronization] between squid during flashing can be changed and this suggests that there is some information being conveyed that makes minute control over these details important to the squid," Hannah Rosen, a doctoral student at the university and the leader of the research, said in a written statement. "A view into this previously secret world was like a dream come true."
Rosen and her colleagues say they hope to conduct further research to find out just what these squid are "saying."
A paper describing the research was published Jan. 15, 2015 in The Journal of Experimental BIology.