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Big Squid Hunt: Can I Borrow Your Pen?

July 19, 2012

Well, this is it. Our big squid hunt finally draws to a close. Our last stop was in Boulder to visit the collections at the University of Colorado. There we were greeted by a most helpful collections manager of invertebrate paleontology. As in Manitoba, we warned her we were coming, so the squid pens were out and ready for the sampling.

Photo of squid pens and bivalves

Squid pens and bivalves from the collections at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Photo by Dan Lawver

Turns out most of their squid pens were actually collected from Wyoming. Hmmm…Wyoming, why not oming? Sounds like we might need to do another squid hunt next year? We did our sampling thing and came away with 6 more squid parts to destroy. Woo Hoo! If you’re counting along, that makes the total approximately thirty squid pen parts for our project. We should be able to finally figure out the answer to the question, why do these big squid pens preserve? With all these pens to destroy and analyze, it might take a while and may lead to other questions, but hey that’s what the scientific process is all about.

Photo of a big fish skeleton with a squid pen in its gullet

Big fish skeleton with a squid pen in its gullet. Specimen on display in the Museum at the University of Colorado, Boulder

Before we said adios to Colorado, we stopped in at their museum and at the actual collections area to see two very unique specimens. The first, a large fish fossil with a squid pen stuck in its gullet. The second, a large squid pen that looks like it broke its rachis then repaired it in life. Both specimens raised more questions before we even had a chance to start answering our original question. First, if a squid pen is completely chitinous and flexible, why would the fish choke to death on it? Second, how did a squid with what appears to be a broken pen, survive long enough to repair itself? Don’t they need their pens for jet propulsion? Must have been one gimpy squid! Ah, science…there are always more questions to be answered.

Photo of two large squid pens

Two large squid pens in the collections area of the University of Colorado, Boulder. The one in the back appears to have a broken rachis that was repaired during the squid’s lifetime

So many things to ponder on our long drive back to Bozeman, Montana where I will bid a fond farewell to Dan, my cohort in squid ventures and I will hop a flight back to Raleigh.

Before we go, here’s the squid hunt by the numbers: A million thanks to our colleagues, John Hoganson (North Dakota), Joseph Hatcher (Manitoba), Mike Everhart (Kansas) and Talia Karim (Colorado) and all the others we’ve met along the way. We drove ~2000 miles, wore ~ 26 pairs of underwear (there are two of us), sampled ~30 squid pens and found ~ 4 different genera of fish. This hunt took us 13 days, through 8 states, 2 countries and 1 bottle of Kraken rum.

Photo of Squid Hunters

The squid hunters, Dan Lawver and Trish Weaver, contemplate the pen they just broke. Photo by Mike Everhart

So as the sun sets over the Motel 6, we say au revoir from the big squid hunt. We’re tired but very happy with how the whole thing turned out. Hope you enjoyed travelling along with us.

Photo of a sunset over the Motel 6

Sunset over the Motel 6

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 19, 2012 1:09 pm

    Reblogged this on NC Museum of Natural Sciences Blogs and commented:

    By Trish Weaver

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