Washington: New studies on the ordinary squid are providing clues about the origin and evolution of the sense of hearing.
T. Aran Mooney, a postdoctoral scholar at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), has undertaken seminal investigations into the hearing of this seminal creature in the marine food web.
"Almost every type of marine organism feeds somehow off the squid," says Mooney.
Not just fish, but also many birds, seals, sea lions, and dolphins and toothed whales depend heavily on squid.
Whales, according to Mooney, consume some 320 metric tons of squid a year; people eat another 280 metric tons annually.
Mooney says it may be the squid’s role as a predator’s entrée that holds the key to understanding the importance of hearing among squid and other ocean creatures.
This is because predator avoidance is a key pressure for evolving hearing capabilities. If you can hear your predators approaching, you have a better chance of avoiding them.
Eventually, he said, a better understanding of how squid hear may shed light on human hearing as well.
Despite their importance in the marine food web, little is known about how well squid hear and whether they rely on hearing to navigate, sense danger, and communicate with each other. Until recently, it wasn’t clear that they even hear at all.
It is known now, through the work of Mooney and others, that the squid hearing system has some similarities and some differences compared to human hearing.
The study has been published Friday, Oct. 15, in the Journal of Experimental Biology.