The enigmatic dumpling squid

The enigmatic dumpling squid

Eyes peering out of the sand may be the only clue of a dumpling squid

Eyes peering out of the sand may be the only clue of a dumpling squid

In several parts of the world there are a bunch of enigmatic little squid, commonly known as bobtail squid but I prefer the other name of dumpling squid, due to the comical, globular appearance of these funny little creatures.
So I headed out for a night dive with long-time friend Ron D’Arcy to see if we could capture a dumpling squid for some pictures. The plan was simple, simply search the shallows around Dromana Pier on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula after dark and see if we could scoop one up and take it onto the deck for some photos. In the past, these squid had been fairly easy to locate and catch. I have simply held my hand underneath them and they sat there and could be transferred into a container without an issue.

In this picture you can clearly see the chromatophores that allow the squids and octopi to change color in an instant.

Finding a dumpling squid was no issue this time, we had been in the water for only minutes and a dumpling squid appeared right next to a pylon. We chased it about for a few minutes and eventually caught it and swam over to the pier and set up the aquarium.
The tank was set up with a sandy substrate and black background and the little (yet fully grown) dumpling squid was placed carefully in. It was hard to photograph as it constantly swam over to the edge of the tank. But with some gentle coaxing the squid was encouraged to sit over the sand for some quick pictures before being gently and gratefully released. The dumpling squid zoomed back down to the sea floor only a metre below, no doubt heading over to its friends to tell tales of abduction…

The rather alien dumpling squid

The dumpling squid are certainly alien to us humans. Not only are they much plumper than the more familiar reef squids, but they bury under the sand with only the eyes showing by day or when danger threatens. The whole animal is iridescent green, and the body is covered in chromatophores. These special cells contain bags of pigment that can expand and contract to instantly change the color and pattern of the entire animal. Also, as a bonus, the dumpling squid can generate light on their underside so as they hunt shrimps and fish they make minimal silhouettes on the surface.

The dumpling squid is iridescent all over

Dumpling squid are fascinating enough, but a distant cousin is more spectacular yet…

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