Pain may keep predators away, in squid anyway

After Longfin inshore squid lost a tentacle, they became much more sensitive to attacks from sea bass. The response could explain why anxiety and other behaviors of sensitivity remain even after an immediate threat is gone.

Courtesy of NOAA

Squid that have lost a tentacle seem to be a bit more skittish of sea bass than squid with all of their appendages. Compared with healthy squid, the injured ones start their defensive behaviors, including inking, sooner, when the bass are farther away, researchers report May 8 in Current Biology. The finding suggests that even though the injured squid have a higher risk of being attacked, their injury also makes them more sensitive to predators, increasing their chance of survival. The finding may also explain why behaviors such as anxiety and heightened sensitivity, which appear counterproductive, linger even after a threat is in the distant past, the scientists say.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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