If you’re a male squid, things can be tough. You’re semi-translucent, you have a crazy nest of tentacles instead of a face, and when it comes to fighting for the ladies, if you’re even slightly smaller than the rest of the beefy squid dudes, your chances of procreating are slim to none.
Lucky for you, Mother Nature’s got you covered.
Turns out that the mere touch of a particular female pheromone sends male longfin squid into a superpowered rage, giving weaker, wimpy squid a chance to compete for the ladies. The hormone loligo beta-microseminoprotein, found on longfin eggs, induces aggressive behavior and shows of power that aren’t seen otherwise.
As biologist Roger Hanlon put it:
It’s like Popeye’s spinach. When they touch it, they say “let’s go” and start to kick ass … It’s a beautiful, robust response. It may be a mechanism for smaller males who have trouble being dominant to mate with females.
Hanlon published his study in the most recent issue of Current Biology after years of observation and research. One of his most compelling stories involves placing a single egg in a school of over 1,000 squid stirring the normally docile male squid into a fighting, sexed-up frenzy.
Males are visually attracted to egg capsules. So one bold male squid wiggled his arms in there and immediately started fighting with other males. Another came down and started fighting, then another, then another. Within five minutes, the entire school had spawned.
Equivalents of loligo beta-microseminoprotein have been found in animal species across the spectrum—including in mammals—but it’s far too early to speculate over whether there’s a human equivalent. But this does mark the beginning of some pretty fascinating research.
We don’t know how it [loligo beta-microseminoprotein] gets into the suckers and the bloodstream, what receptors it affects, and how it influences the nervous system. This is really just the beginning, and we hope to inspire other folks to start looking closely at how this class of proteins functions.
Check out the video below to see the hormone whipping some boy squid into shape.
Image NOAA photo librairie/Wikimedia Commons