A group of biologists are proposing that the giant squid be adopted as a mascot for the conservation of the world’s oceans, like the panda is for wildlife conservation.
The WWF’s iconic panda logo has long been associated with the preservation of endangered species, and it’s one of the most instantly recognisable logos of a global charity. As a result, you can argue that it’s directly contributed to conservation efforts for land-based species to an enormous degree.
But what about the oceans? 75 percent of the planet is oceans, and 92 percent of species on Earth inhabit those oceans. Of those species, however, only a precious few have ever garnered much attention from a concerned public — dolphins, whales, seals, and coral, of which three are mammals. Invertebrates, which account for 90 percent of known species, get very little attention.
So a team led by Ángel Guerraa have put together a research paper proposing that the giant squid become the emblem of ocean conservation, for a number of reasons. Firstly, the creatures fascinate the public. Amazon.co.uk returns nearly 3,000 results for giant squid, and Google News has 127 stories about the creature from the past month.
Then there’s the species’ ability to reflect key concerns facing ocean ecosystems — overfishing, pollution and climate change. Almost a third of all records of giant squid originate when one gets caught by a deep-sea fishing trawler, and the frequency of such finds has increased notably since the expansion of deep-sea trawler fisheries. Similarly, due to their long lives they accumulate toxins from pollution, and mass beachings have been linked to underwater surveys using compressed air guns generating low-frequency sound pollution.
Climate change is a particular issue for the creatures for two reasons. Firstly, like other cephalopods, giant squid have calcium carbonate structures inside their bodies, making ocean acidification a problem as it’d begin to dissolve those structures. Secondly, giant squid are limited to the colder areas of the ocean due to their energy requirements and oxygen needs. A warmer ocean means fewer habitatable areas for giant squid.
So for these reasons, Guerraa et al argue that the giant squid can represent concerns for a number of vulnerable ocean ecosystems. Sure, it might not be quite as cuddly as a panda, but it’s iconic enough, and there’s enough interest from the public in the species for it to be adopted as an emblem of ocean conservation.
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What do you reckon? Would you pledge money to save the giant squid?