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Cap'n Refsmmat

Interview with Squid Expert Dr. Steve O'Shea

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Dr. Steve O'Shea, director of the Earth and Oceanic Sciences Research Institute and noted giant squid expert, has kindly agreed to be interviewed by SFN. Just take a look at the articles linked - O'Shea is a giant squid expert and creator of the Squidcam, a live site for watching giant squid in captivity.

 

Have a question for Dr. O'Shea? Want to know more about giant squid, squid research, or the work of the Earth and Oceanic Sciences Research Institute? Post your questions here, and we'll collate the best ten or so questions to be emailed to Dr. O'Shea. Then we'll post his responses.

 

So, off you go. What would you ask Dr. O'Shea?

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Perhaps a question or two about his squid porn.


Merged post follows:

Consecutive posts merged

Also, 'who would win in a fight: you or PZ Myers?'.

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We often hear that squid are some of the most intelligent creatures we’ve encountered, yet the concept of intelligence itself is difficult to define. There are different types of intelligence in humans. There is social intelligence, emotional intelligence, problem solving intelligence, and (among others) often very specialized forms of intelligence which is context dependent. This makes measuring and defining intelligence surprisingly difficult to do.

 

I wonder… Do we see similar intelligence types in squid, where we can see across organisms a spectrum of strengths and weaknesses, where some individuals are good at some things while other individuals are good at others? Also, in your opinion, what can we learn from our studies of intelligence in squid which can help us to better understand intelligence in humans?

 

Thanks.

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Awesome question, thanks.

 

I'll add my own:

 

Your Institute's website describes you as an "ardent conservationist," and as an ecologist you know the effects of human actions on animals. However, there are some people that hold the opposite view, that the extinction of some species is acceptable. They might reason that the extinction of one uncommon species doesn't harm us at all, or that nobody needed the dodo bird anyway.

 

How would you respond to those sorts of anti-conservationists? Why is the Earth's wonderful diversity and amazing weirdness worth saving, even down to the rarest and least known species?

 

(I feel like we're asking really hard questions. Hm.)

 

Also, take a look at Dr. O'Shea's previous visit to SFN, where we discussed his attempts to capture X-rated squid footage. Twelve-year-old me, registered for merely two days, helped make Steve's day by suggesting the use of pills with cameras inside to study squid. Hence my next question,

 

Seven years ago I suggested the use of "camera pills" to study squid. Has that idea ever panned out, or did the squid start taking apart the camera to build the first squid television network?

Edited by Cap'n Refsmmat

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(I might be talking out of my ass here, so feel free to ignore the question if I am) I heard something about the squid's eyes being very similar to human eyes. I wonder why that is, how they're similar and does it teach us anything about our own evolutionary development?

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How about the basic "What's the difference between squids and octopi?"

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How would you respond to those sorts of anti-conservationists? Why is the Earth's wonderful diversity and amazing weirdness worth saving, even down to the rarest and least known species?

While I am actually on the side of the conservation, I must point out that if you're acting as a journalist, your questions should not be leading.

 

This one's a leading question. ("wonderful diversity / amazing weirdness" .. you're leading to a desired answer, or you're assuming what he'll lean towards. If you're an interviewer you should be balanced, and let *HIM* answer ;)

 

Just a point.

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(I might be talking out of my ass here, so feel free to ignore the question if I am) I heard something about the squid's eyes being very similar to human eyes. I wonder why that is, how they're similar and does it teach us anything about our own evolutionary development?

 

http://www.tonmo.com/forums/showthread.php?4981-Squid-eyes-human-eyes-and-evolution

 

Apparently it's not a stupid question!

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Perhaps the greatest mystery surrounding Architeuthis is where we might find them. So, what logic and clues do you use, and do the habitats suggested by the clues coincide with one another? For example: depths frequented by whales where they might fight with squids, depths where we find related squids (ie, related by DNA, prey food, etc), depths at which we find the various prey found inside the squids, etc. What does its great size and other anatomical features suggest about its habits? Also, why does there “seem” to be fewer surface sightings nowadays than in the past (ie, attacking ships, battling whales, sunbathing?, etc)? Lastly, how do the four carcasses that washed ashore in Australia in the summertime (but over the course of many years) figure into theories of its habits?

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Yes, about them squid eyes. Are their eyes really "better designed" than ours because the nerves are on the back of the retina? Our eyes (and modern digital cameras too it seems) have the nerves in front of the retina.

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Yes, about them squid eyes. Are their eyes really "better designed" than ours because the nerves are on the back of the retina? Our eyes (and modern digital cameras too it seems) have the nerves in front of the retina.

What.. wait, really? Uh.. I was always under the impression that human eye has the nerves on the back of the eye, which is the source of our "blind spot".... I.. guess I'm wrong?

 

(I *knew* I should've taken bio instead of chemistry as my science non-physics requirement..)

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AFAI can recall... it's blood vessels, not nerves.

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Evolution_of_the_eye#Evolutionary_baggage

 

There ya go. I think this also answers my question: our eyes make up for it by having the retina in closer proximity to the blood vessels, so better nourished. Although we get a blind spot where the nerves get together and cross the eye, we don't really notice it anyways.

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I forgot about retinopathy in my post above. Of course...

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What kind of research and findings from the squid would convince neuroscientists, anatomists, physiologist, and cytologists that they no longer need to use it as a model organism?


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Consecutive posts merged

I believe this is a past interview from a different website if anyone is interested in reading it:

 

http://www.tonmo.com/osheainterview.php

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"Has there been any confirmed reports of giant squid sinking boats and eating people?"

 

Not scientific as such, but still a question.

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What.. wait, really? Uh.. I was always under the impression that human eye has the nerves on the back of the eye, which is the source of our "blind spot".... I.. guess I'm wrong?

 

(I *knew* I should've taken bio instead of chemistry as my science non-physics requirement..)

 

the rods and cones point into the skull, with the nerves passing over the top to a bundle which then punctures the retina at the blind spot. with cephalopods, the receptor cells point outwards, the nerves run underneath and there is no blind spot.

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Depending on how serious of an interview:

 

In the trailer for "Clash of the Titans," the dramatically released "Kraken" looks nothing like a squid or cephalopod of any kind. Are you offended by this? Or is it a good sign that Hollywood apparently no longer sees squid as horrible monsters to be slain by handsome sword-swingers?

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I recently read Stephen Baxter's Manifold: Time, a nice piece of hard science fiction where reef squids were trained to operate the robot waldoes and other controls of machinery aboard a space ship, with technology only slightly in advance of the present day. In the story, Baxter asserts that squid are probably better suited to space travel than humans are (adapted to weightlessness, better in 3 dimensional operation, more limbs, less weight, etc) and would be invaluable in the future if they could be properly trained to operate remote robotics.

 

Do you think squids could be trained for off-planet operations such as asteroid mining and exploration? How difficult would this type of communication with squids be?

Edited by Phi for All

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The best questions from my Reddit thread:

 

  • Can a giant squid be trained to wield daggers?
  • They've done experiments lately with squids and found them to be really intelligent creatures who can be trained to open jars and do all sorts of nifty things. Are giant squids that clever as well or are they just massive cretins trawling for food?
  • Why did it take so long to capture a live one on film?

 

I think we're approaching the limit of questions that can be asked in one interview, so post your last questions before we send them off to Dr. O'Shea!

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I recently read Stephen Baxter's Manifold: Time, a nice piece of hard science fiction where reef squids were trained to operate the robot waldoes and other controls of machinery aboard a space ship, with technology only slightly in advance of the present day. In the story, Baxter asserts that squid are probably better suited to space travel than humans are (adapted to weightlessness, better in 3 dimensional operation, more limbs, less weight, etc) and would be invaluable in the future if they could be properly trained to operate remote robotics.

 

Do you think squids could be trained for off-planet operations such as asteroid mining and exploration? How difficult would this type of communication with squids be?

 

Do they address the whole "water habitat being enormously more massive than air habitat" issue?

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Is there any evidence of complex communication among squid(giant and/or normal)?

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Do they address the whole "water habitat being enormously more massive than air habitat" issue?

 

Squid scuba tanks? (But with water instead of air?)

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Do they address the whole "water habitat being enormously more massive than air habitat" issue?
The water habitat can include all the dietary requirements for the squids in a sustainable system. Coupled with the fact that reef squids are typically about 20cm long, the water habitat was deemed more efficient.

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