Key West Squid
A person who’s interested in Key West diving will probably come across a squid or two at one point. No, it won’t be the notorious giant squid or the vampire squid that live at great depths. These are more the kinds of squid that are good for calamari. The most abundant squid a diver will see around the Keys is the Caribbean reef squid or Sepioteuthis sepioidea.
Reef squid are cephalopods and are related to the octopus. They are torpedo shaped creatures with a head, a mantle, eight arms and two tentacles. Most of the reef squid’s body is secreted in its mantle and it has a beak that it uses to cut up its prey, which includes smaller fish, marine snails, shrimp and other crustaceans. Like other squid, the reef squid likes to eat and eats over half of its body weight every day. It uses its tentacles to grab its prey and then pull them into its arms, which pulls them into its beak. Also like other squid, the reef squid can change the color and texture of its skin and the very shape of its body. They can also flash, either to confuse their prey or attract mates. The squid also produces clouds of ink to confuse predators. They can also propel themselves out of the water and fly.
Reef squid can be found in schools of about four to 30 individuals in the shallow water around reefs. Younger squid keep closer to the reefs for protection, while the mature squid can be found in open water and up to 300 feet down. The reef squid is like other squid and cephalopods in that they die shortly after they reproduce. For the female, this means dying soon after she lays her eggs. For the male, this is after he’s mated with a number of females.