I am not sure of a lot of things. Life is confusing and inconstant and kind of gross and more often than not, I just don’t know what to think.
One thing I’ve always felt certain about, though: squids do not fly. In fact, name any animal and I’d feel pretty confident telling you its status, vis-a-vis flying ability. Birds: yes. Turtles: no. Squirrels: sometimes, kind of. Look, if we want to measure intelligence by how accurately I can deduce whether an animal has wings, I’m goddamn Stephen Hawking.
Squids: hell no. How is this even a question? Dogs don’t do linear algebra. Squids don’t fly.
Well, I’d better hunker down in the basement and prepare for the apocalypse because squids do fly and everything I know is wrong. In fact, certain species of squid actually travel faster in the air than in water. How do they do it? With jet-propulsion technology, I kid you not. These guys launch themselves out of the ocean like mini-bottle rockets by taking in water and shooting it behind them, because wings are for butterflies and Red Bull commercials.
Evolutionarily, it actually makes a lot of sense. Marine biologist Ronald O’Dor could never understand where these squid found the energy to travel to their spawning grounds over 1,000 km away (which is about 621miles, and about 620 more miles than the average American would walk). It turns out that these periodic flights may actually save the squid a ton of energy; enough, presumably, so that they can reach the squid-nightclubs and still have time to hit the restrooms to apply their squid-colognes. Of course, females can also boost their stamina by “[eating] the males as they make the journey,” but I imagine that doesn’t help much with their mating chances.
Squid aren’t the only flying creatures that have no business leaving the ground, but they are the least terrifying. Let me warn you now: you might want to stop reading here, if you’re generally comfortable with the idea that a throng of snakes won’t suddenly descend from the heavens and bite into your jugular when you least expect it. Okay, you should have stopped reading at the sentence before that, my bad.
The good news is I’ve exaggerated a bit—these snakes are only found in South and Southeast Asia, and they’re too small to harm humans (though some reach lengths of 4 feet). What they do is propel themselves from tree branches and contort their bodies mid-fall into a kind of “S” shape. By rippling back and forth, they can trap pockets of air and direct the motion of their flight. Think of the way a snake usually slithers, only several feet above the ground and the unholy cries of tortured souls ringing in your ears. I mean, I’m just assuming that last part, but OH GOD LOOK AT THAT THING.
Scientists aren’t sure why this particular behavior evolved. Some guess it’s to “escape predators” or “hunt prey,” but that sounds like scientist-talk for, “I don’t know, it helps them survive? I guess?” Snakes are bending the laws of physics, dammit! I want answers!
Oh, and in case I haven’t yet reduced you to a paranoid, sky-fearing wreck, there’s always spiders. Using a technique called “ballooning,” spiders can send out a line of sturdy silk and catch a ride on a strong enough gust. Unlike snakes, they can’t control where they’re going. Once they’ve laid out the thread, they’ll literally go wherever the wind takes them, which means there is an approximately 60% chance that one will smack you in the face the next time you go outside on a breezy day.
And these aren’t small voyages, either. Spiders will travel hundreds of miles on the wind. Some of them even end up “in the middle of the ocean,” where no doubt they’re teaming up with the squid to plan an aerial takeover of our coastal cities.
Don’t despair, though! Nature isn’t all horrifying. Be sure to catch my post next week, “Four Surprising Ways Wolves Will Try to Dismember You, and Why There is Probably One in your House Right Now.”