Squids are one of my favorite animals. I think it's because they're alien, ridiculous and terrifying in equal measure. For me they embody a lot of primal fears about the ocean. They are so very different from us land mammals with their boneless bodies, ability to change colour, tentacles and beaks (yes, they have BEAKS!). In recent decades the stories of giant monstrosities capable of sinking ships have been proven to be more than tall tails. Architeuthis Dux has been captured on camera and the females of the species can grow up to nearly 50ft. It's bigger brother, the Colossal Squid is fast becoming an accepted scientific reality. How long before evidence of more gargantuan tentacled beasts is found?
It's not surprising that those with a penchant for fantasy have been enamored with our cephalopod comrades. Many an alien has featured tentacles, bulbous eyes and beak-like maw (I am looking at you here, Metaluna Mutant). Lovecraft was writing at a time when technology was first allowing humans to explore the deeps and the fossil record was starting to show that all life came from the sea. His visions of pulpy, amorphous elder gods laid many of the foundations of today's tentacle-horror.
At last weekend's Hoplite Association event, my friend Nikarete whipped up some calamari. She started from scratch with a pile of whole squids. I was fascinated by their layers of transparent flesh and took the snaps below as they were dissected. I was particularly interested in the construction of their beaks, which are formed from two separate boney hooks that mesh together in the muscles where the tentacles converge.