Flying squids: It’s not a metaphor or literary device of any sort. Well, maybe a slight misnomer.
The story itself isn’t new, there was a 2004 study about squid that take to the air. It came up on Scientific American recently because of the new photographic evidence, seen above, taken by amateur photographer Bob Hulse from a cruise ship off the coast of Brazil (now I’m feeling really inadequate that I just saw mammals and birds from the ship on my recent Alaskan cruise).
Flight is fascinating, obviously, and also clearly a really good idea. There are really only four true fliers (to my knowledge): birds, bats, insects, and pterosaurs. According to the Scientific American article, the 2004 study alleges the squid are flying rather than gliding, but I am dubious. Are they really providing thrust with their fins? I will chalk it up to scientists who get a little too close to their subject and want to believe things the evidence is not yet strong for (see also primate sign language). All sorts of other animals are not true fliers but can glide, parachute, or, perhaps most impressively, jet propel themselves out of the water like squid alone can do. Color me impressed. Squids are the only non-arthropod invertebrate who are aspiring aviators.
Some other notable not quite fliers:
Flying lemurs (They neither fly nor are they lemurs. Discuss.)
Draco lizards. Fun fact: that bit of anatomy there is called a dewlap.
Flying fish. Fun fact: flying fish can do multiple glides because they can slap their tails on the water to give them another boost of height. If only those pesky gills weren’t in the way!
I really do have a soft spot for illustrations of animals, if you couldn’t tell.