Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a squid

FLYING SQUID: This handout picture taken by Kouta Muramatsu of Hokkaido University on July 25, 2011 shows the oceanic squid flying in the air  in the northwest Pacific Ocean, 600 km east of Tokyo. — AFP photo

FLYING SQUID: This handout picture taken by Kouta Muramatsu of Hokkaido University on July 25, 2011 shows the oceanic squid flying in the air in the northwest Pacific Ocean, 600 km east of Tokyo. — AFP photo

TOKYO: A species of oceanic squid can fly more than 30 metres through the air at speeds faster than Usain Bolt if it wants to escape predators, Japanese researchers said yesterday.

The Neon Flying Squid propels itself out of the ocean by shooting a jet of water at high pressure, before opening its fins to glide at up to 11.2 metres per second, Jun Yamamoto of Hokkaido University said.

Olympic Gold medallist Bolt averaged 10.31 metres a second when he won at the London Games last year.

“There were always witnesses and rumours that said squid were seen flying, but no one had clarified how they actually do it. We have proved that it really is true,” Yamamoto told AFP.

Researchers say is the first time anyone has ever described the mechanism the flying mollusc employs.

Yamamoto and his team were tracking a shoal of around 100 squid, part of the Japanese Flying Squid family, in the northwest Pacific, 600 kilometres east of Tokyo, in July 2011.

As their boat approached, the 20-centimetre creatures launched themselves into the air with a powerful jet of water that shot out from their funnel-like stems.

“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.”

A picture researchers snapped shows more than 20 of the creatures in full flight above the water, droplets of water from their propulsion jet clearly visible.

“We have discovered that squid do not just jump out of water but have a highly developed flying posture,” the report said. — AFP

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