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Flying Squid (Yes, the Marine Animal) Gets Scientific Backing


"...they glide by spreading out their fins and arms."

This photo taken July 25, 2011, shows the squid flying above the water. (Photo: Kouta Muramatsu/ Hokkaido University via AFP)

What was once left to rumors and only eyewitness accounts has received scientific support. Yes, squid can fly -- or at least certain ones can to an extent.

Researchers at Hokkaido University have shown how it is physically possible for the marine animal to launch itself out of the water and fly above it for distances as much as 30 meters with a speed they say is faster than that reached by Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt.

This photo taken July 25, 2011, shows the squid flying above the water. (Photo: Kouta Muramatsu/ Hokkaido University via AFP)

Lead researcher Jun Yamamoto and his team were tracking about 100 Todarodes pacificus, commonly known as Japanese flying squid, in July 2011, AFP reported. When they got close, the mollusks hurled themselves out of the water.

Mechanism by which the squid fly. (Image via AFP)

Here's more from AFP about how the animals do it:

"Once they finish shooting out the water, they glide by spreading out their fins and arms," Yamamoto's team said in a report. "The fins and the web between the arms create aerodynamic lift and keep the squid stable on its flight arc. "As they land back in the water, the fins are all folded back into place to minimise the impact."

Here's a look at the type of squid that exhibits this behavior. (Photo: Wikimedia)

This research was published in the journal Marine Biology. The abstract of the study has the researchers breaking down the flight into four phases:  launching, jetting, gliding and diving.

"During flight, squid actively change their aerial posture and attitude depending on the flight phase and their distance from the water. The present study demonstrated that flight of squid is not simple gliding after incidental exit from the water, but involves jet propulsion, generation of lift force and control of different body postures in different flight phases, which have evolved to enhance escape from predators," the researchers state in the abstract.

Watch the flying squid shoot off (still underwater though) in this video:

It's not the first time of late that the marine mollusks have been making headlines. Earlier this year, the Discovery Channel and Japan's National Science Museum announced they had filmed for the first time the illusive giant squid. Here's the footage they released:

(H/T: io9)

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