Holiday Shore  by Edith M. Patch

Loligo's Tricks

L OLIGO and others like him often swim in the bay near Holiday Shore. If you go out in a boat, you can see them among the seaweeds.

Loligo is about eight inches long. He is shaped much like a tiny submarine and is pinkish, spotted with red and brown. Two big kite-shaped fins spread sidewise near his tail. His head is short, with round bright eyes. In front of his eyes are ten pointed arms. On each arm are many round suckers.

Surrounded by the arms, where you cannot see it, is a mouth with two sharp black beaks, and a tongue that is even rougher than the moon snail's tongue.

Loligo, who swims among the waving seaweeds, is a squid. Squids belong to a group of animals called mollusks, a name which means that their bodies are soft. So do clams, oysters, snails, and some others. If you like, you may call these soft-bodied animals cousins—but they really are not such close relatives as cousins. The group to which the squids belong are the only mollusks that swim. Most of the time they swim backward. How do you suppose they do that?

Under Loligo's chin is a slit. It connects with a big chamber in his body. When he fills the chamber with water, he shuts the slit. Then he squirts the water out through a tube that also lies under his chin. The force of the water as he squirts it out sends him backward through the bay.


Loligo swam backward among the kelp and other seaweeds.

That is, it does when the tube points forward. If Loligo wants to turn, he twists the tube one way or another. He even can turn it so that it points toward his tail. Then he swims forward for a while.

Watch Loligo and those other two squids near him as some fish swim near. They all begin to twist their arms about. Their color fades to a pale whitish pink. Suddenly they begin to move, darting backward among the fish and turning from one side to the other. As they turn, they reach out with two long arms and try to catch the fish with their suckers.

The fish, which are mackerel, do their best to get away. Loligo misses the first and the second, but he catches the third with his two long arms. Then he bites pieces from it with his beak and tears these pieces with his rough tongue, before he finally swallows his food.

That second squid is a good hunter, but he does not take time to eat. Swimming about among the fish, he kills two or three by biting chunks out of their backs. Then he lets the dead fish drop to the bottom as he swims off to continue his hunt.

None of this meat is wasted. Crabs, snails, and jointed worms soon find it and enjoy the feast that the squid provided.

Meanwhile the mackerel that the squid was chasing have gone into shallow water—so shallow, indeed, that the squid does not venture to follow them. So after all his efforts, this greedy hunter has to go hungry.

The third squid was awkward or unlucky. He tried his best to catch a fish, but every one swam away. At last he gave up the chase and settled down on the bottom of the bay. There his color is rapidly changing. He is being covered with buff and brown spots that look like sand. You must look carefully to see the waiting squid at all.

How do squids change color as they swim, hunt, or wait on the sand?

If you could put Loligo under a microscope, you would see that his skin contains hundreds of little cells called "color bodies." When these are open, the dark color in them spreads out and shows as spots. When they are closed the dark color does not show and the squid looks pinkish white. By closing and opening his color bodies, or cells, Loligo becomes pale pink or grows darker until he is purplish brown. He is sometimes so pale that you can hardly see him in clear water; and when he is hiding among seaweeds or waiting on the pebbles, he is so mottled that you may easily fail to see him there.

Loligo has another trick that he plays only when attacked. If a big, hungry fish tries to catch him, Loligo squirts out a cloud of ink and swims backward as fast as he can. By the time the fish gets his eyes out of the inky cloud, Loligo is far away, or hidden among seaweeds or rocks.

Soon he fills his ink bag again with black fluid he makes in his body. It is well to be prepared to escape from the next hunter that would like to eat the delicate flesh of the squid. Dangers make Loligo cautious, but they do not make him unhappy or drive him from Holiday Bay. He even finds it such a pleasant place that he comes there with Mrs. Loligo when she is ready to lay her eggs.

One day in early summer, Mrs. Loligo squeezes a sticky ball out of the tube under her chin. First, she catches it with her arms. Then she swims backward for two or three minutes, rolling the ball between her arms until she has an object about four inches long shaped rather like a cigar.

Suddenly she stops swimming and stands on her head. She walks about on the tips of her arms till she finds a satisfactory seaweed or stone. There she presses the sticky object firmly into place and gets ready to make another one.


Mother Loligo walked on her arms to the stone where she laid her eggs.

That cigar-shaped roll holds several hundreds of Mrs. Loligo's eggs. Since she has several thousand eggs to lay she needs many such rolls to hold them all. So she forms one jellylike roll after another and fastens them in clumps which fishermen often call "sea mops."

Each egg is small, round, and white. In a few weeks a baby squid hatches from it. His head is more than half as large as the rest of his body. His eyes are big and his arms are short.


The baby squid has big eyes and short arms.

His fins are two tiny flaps that stick backward near his tail. This youngster is less than a quarter of an inch long at first, but when he is a year old he will be as big as Mother or Father Loligo.

Sepia, the Cuttlefish

In the deepest tide pools we sometimes find one of Loligo's relatives. He is only five or six inches long, but his body is thicker than Loligo's. He has two narrow fins, one on each side, that run from his head to his tail. Eight of his arms, with suckers, are short and he uses them like feet. Two other arms are very long when they are stretched out, but he often carries them folded inside his head.

This is Sepia, the cuttlefish. Snails and clams carry their shells outside their bodies, but Sepia's shell is buried in his flesh, not far from his stubby tail. There it helps protect the soft inner parts of his body from being hurt by the bumps that he gets when swimming backward among the rocks.


Sepia, the cuttlefish, among the rocks of a deep tide pool.

Sepia also has a bag of ink that he squirts out to stop sea creatures from chasing him. Fishermen of ancient China and Rome caught cuttlefish and sold these bags to men who made the fluid into writing ink. Even now there is a dark "sepia" brown made from cuttlefish ink. Perhaps you have some of it among your water-color paints.

Mother Sepia has her own way of laying eggs. She covers each one with a black coat, making it look like a little pointed grape. Then she fastens it to a frond of seaweed on a stalk that seems to be made of rubber. On this stalk the egg bobs to and fro until it is ready to hatch.

An Octopus

Have you read stories about the octopus, or devilfish, another of Loligo's relatives? Most of these stories speak of the octopus as if he were very fierce, but they are imaginary and do not give the facts. You need not be afraid if you are lucky enough to see an octopus along the rocks off Holiday Shore.

The octopus has a soft, roundish body that is six or eight inches long. His head is short and his eyes are big. They seem to glare at you in a very savage manner, but the octopus will not hurt you. He is really a timid creature.

Instead of having ten arms, like the squid, the octopus has only eight. Watch this creature twist his long arms among the rocks, showing their big round suckers. Like the rest of his body, the arms are mottled with pink. But the octopus, like Loligo, can change his colors and become brownish or purple or nearly white. Even when he is not disturbed, the octopus twists and stretches his arms. He uses them when he crawls, pulling himself from rock to rock.


The octopus stretches and twists his arms.

Do you see that crab among the rocks? The octopus sees it, too. He is crawling along until he gets above it. Suddenly he drops on the crab, holding it with his sucking arms while he bites through its hard shell. He is so hungry he does not even mind when the crab pinches one of his arms.

As soon as the octopus has finished his dinner of crab meat, take a stick and poke him a little—just to see what happens. At once he squirts out a cloud of ink, pulls his long arms from the rocks and swims backward through the water. Soon he hides himself among other rocks. If you should attempt to get him out, you would find that he hangs on tightly with his suckers. He will not try to bite you, but he holds firmly to the protecting rock. You may tug, if you like, but the octopus does not budge.