The ABCs of Cephalopods with Conservation Biologist Samantha Cheng
[UPBEAT GUITAR JAZZ MUSIC BEGINS]
[Conservation Biologist Sam Cheng stands in the center of the frame, addressing the viewer.]
SAMANTHA CHENG (CONSERVATION BIOLOGIST, CENTER FOR BIODIVERSITY AND CONSERVATION): Hi, I’m Sam Cheng, I am a biodiversity scientist at the American Museum of Natural History.
[As she speaks, the words “Hi”, “Sam Cheng”, and “Biodiversity Scientist” appear onscreen in block letters.]
CHENG: And I study cephalopods. What do you need to know about these amazing creatures that include octopus and squids?
[An animated octopus appears in the top left corner of the screen.]
CHENG: Well, let’s start with the ABCs.
[Cheng freezes and becomes out of focus, The American Museum of Natural History logo and text appears]
CHENG: A is for Arms. Octopus have 8 arms, not tentacles like a lot of people think.
[Eight cartoon octopus arms appear one at a time in a circle with a [POP] sound]
CHENG: Arms have suckers all the way up,
[One large cartoon arm extends down from the top of the screen with pairs of suckers appearing all along it.]
CHENG: Whereas tentacles just have them at the ends.
[Once the arm fully extends, it changes to a smooth tentacle stalk that retracts back up to the top of the screen, ending in an oval-shaped club with many suckers.]
CHENG: B is for Belemnites.
[A purple cartoon belemnite with a squid-shaped mantle and ten arms appears next to CHENG.]
CHENG: These extinct cephalopods looked kind of like squid, but they had a hard shell.
[Small exclamation lines radiate out from the shell to indicate its hardness.]
CHENG: They lived from about 230 million years ago to 70 million years ago.
CHENG: C is for Cephalopod, of course. Cephalopod means “head-foot” in Greek, because of the way cephalopods’ heads attach directly to their arms.
[An animated octopus’s “head” appears with a [POP] sound. The octopus’s arms appear beneath the “head”, moving up to meet it. The body is united with a [DING.]]
CHENG: The basic layout of a cephalopod has two eyes,
[White circles animate around the two eyes in its mantle.]
CHENG: a mantle,
[A white circle animates around the “head” of the octopus.]
CHENG: a funnel or a siphon,
[The octopus turns to the side, revealing a funnel-shaped appendage on the back of its mantle, which a white circle animates around.]
CHENG: and at least eight arms.
[A white circle animates around the octopus’s arms beneath its mantle.]
CHENG: D is for Decapodiformes. This is a group of cephalopods that includes squids, cuttlefish, and those extinct belemnites.
[An animated squid appears, followed by a squat animated cuttlefish with w-shaped pupils, followed by an animated belemnite.]
CHENG: “Deca” means “ten”, which makes sense since these critters have eight arms and two tentacles.
[Eight animated cephalopod arms extend towards CHENG from the right side of the screen, followed by two extending tentacles.]
CHENG: E is for External Shell.
[Four hard-shelled animated ammonites (extinct cephalopods) appear in each corner of the screen.]
CHENG: Ancient cephalopods used to have an external shell around their body. Today, modern cephalopods don’t have that shell…
[One by one, the ammonites disappear from the screen with a [POP] sound, replaced by a cartoon ammonite shell in a circle with a line through it.]
CHENG: …except for nautilus and allonautilus.
[A pink cartoon nautilus and blue cartoon allonautilus appear on either side of CHENG.]
CHENG: F is for the Flamboyant Cuttlefish.
[Two dark purple animated cuttlefish with yellow outlines and flaps and spots on their mantles float on either side of CHENG.]
CHENG: This super charismatic cephalopod has flattened arms, and super bright colors to warn potential predators that it’s actually poisonous…
[A green cartoon skull-and-bones appears below each Flamboyant Cuttlefish.]
CHENG: …and they shouldn’t eat it.
CHENG: G is for Gladius. This is an internal shell that some cephalopods have. It gets its name from an ancient Roman short sword that it kind of resembles.
[A cartoon sword with a golden handle appears to CHENG’s left, followed by comparably sized white oval shape (a cuttlebone) on her right.]
CHENG: An example of a gladius is the cuttlebone of a cuttlefish.
CHENG: H is for Hectocotylus.
[A purple cartoon cephalopod arm extends up from the bottom of the screen. Rows of suckers line the arm until the tip, which has a different shape.]
CHENG: This is a specialized arm in male cephalopods that’s designed for delivering packets of sperm.
[CHENG shrugs playfully]
CHENG: I is for the Ink that cephalopods release for self-defense. They can either release ink in a big cloud like a smoke bomb, so they can jet away undetected…
[As Cheng opens her hands to indicate an ink cloud, blue cartoon ink explodes across the entire screen with a [LARGE WHOOSHING] sound.]
CHENG: …or they can release their ink in a smaller cloud…
[A much smaller cloud of blue cartoon ink erupts from Cheng’s hands with a [QUICK, SOFT WHOOSHING] sound.]
CHENG: …so that it distracts the predator and it’ll attack it instead.
CHENG: J is for Jet Propulsion. Cephalopods move by sucking water in through their mantle…
[Two animated octopuses lift up their arms to suck water into their expanding mantles…]
CHENG: …and shooting it out of their siphon.
[…then quickly jet upwards and out of frame as they shoot the water out of their siphons.]
CHENG: They use this to do things like make quick getaways and to capture their prey.
K is for the Kraken.
[An animated sailboat is lifted out of the water by large animated arms and tentacles.]
[INDISTINCT SHIP CREW SHOUTING]
CHENG: This legendary sea monster terrorized sailors. And it’s thought that it was inspired by the real-life giant squid, which can grow up to 40 feet long.
L is for Lirae…
[A large cartoon ammonite shell slowly rotates at the bottom of the screen, with the ridges of its shell (lirae) clearly visible.]
CHENG: which are the little ridges that you can see on the outside of shells, including some cephalopods like the nautilus.
M is for Midden.
[An animated octopus appears next to CHENG]
CHENG: Some octopus species like to eat their food in a shelter, like under some rocks.
[A rock shelter appears around the octopus.]
CHENG: And they discard leftover bits of their pray around the entrance.
[Small shells pile up at the entrance of the shelter.]
CHENG: Over time this builds up, and this pile of debris is called a midden. And it’s also sometimes called the Octopus’s Garden.
[The octopus winks with a [DING] sound effect.]
CHENG: N is for Nautilus.
[Animated nautiluses appear on either side of CHENG.]
CHENG: Nautilus are considered to be living fossils because they’ve been around for over 500 million years. They have a hard outer shell and lots and lots of little cirri instead of arms and tentacles. Even though nautilus have been around for so long, they are actually at risk of extinction today because of over-collection of their shells.
O is for some fun facts about octopuses. They have three hearts…
[Three animated heart symbols appear one at a time to Cheng’s right.]
CHENG: …they are masters of camouflage…
[Animated octopuses appear, then fade to blend into the background.]
CHENG: …and the correct plural form of octopus is octopuses, not octopi. Sorry.
[Many small animated octopuses appear all around Cheng.]
CHENG: P is for Photophores. Some cephalopods have a special light organ that’s bioluminescent.
[An animated squid appears.]
CHENG: Species like the firefly squid can even do light displays with this organ…
[The squid fades into a collection of glowing, twinkling dots in the shape of the squid.]
CHENG: …that can be used to communicate with potential mates and distract predators.
Q is for Quiet. Because Cephalopods don’t make a lot of noise.
[MUSIC CUTS OUT, TOTAL SILENCE FOR A MOMENT.]
CHENG: R is for Rostrum, which is the incredibly hard beak that squid and octopus use to kill and eat their prey.
[Two cartoon rostrums that look like disembodied parrot beaks bite down three times with a [CHOMP] sound.]
CHENG: S is for Siphuncle. This is a tube in cuttlefish and nautilus that help it maintain its buoyancy in the water.
[A line appears along the spiral of a nautilus’ shell to indicate where the siphuncle is located.]
CHENG: T is for Teuthology, the study of cephalopods. Today, you are all teuthologists.
[CHENG points directly at the viewer.]
CHENG: U is for Umbilicus, which is the hollow space that you sometimes see at the center of the whorls of a nautilus’s shell.
[CHENG uses her finger to draw a line along the spiral curve of a nautilus’s shell ending in the center, the umbilicus. The umbilicus is emphasized with exclamation lines.]
CHENG: Umbilicus is also the official term for our belly buttons.
V is for Vertebrae.
[A cartoon human spinal column appears to Cheng’s left.]
CHENG: Just kidding, cephalopods don’t have any.
[The spinal column curves to form a capital letter “J.” A capital letter “K” made of three spinal columns appears, forming the slang “JK” to mean “just kidding.”]
CHENG: W is for Wonderpuss.
[A striped animated octopus with a small body and long arms appears.]
CHENG: This is a species of small-bodied octopus that lives in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. It’s known for its ability to mimic other sea animals.
[The mimic octopus draws up its arms so it is extending one arm one each side, making them appear like sea snakes.]
CHENG: X is for Xanthophore. This is a type of cell that helps cephalopods change the color of their skin to camouflage with their surroundings.
[Abstract “cell” shapes appear, then change color to blend into the background.]
CHENG: This is actually a type of chromatophore cell, which are cells that contain pigment or help reflect light.
Y is for “Why ” Why are we doing this? Because cephalopods are cool.
[An animated squid and octopus appear wearing sunglasses.]
CHENG: Z is for Zebra Display. Which is what some squid and cuttlefish use to attract a mate or hunt for prey. For example, the giant Australian cuttlefish displays a rapidly changing zebra pattern on its skin to intimidate other males while it’s courting a female.
[An animated cuttlefish swims next to CHENG with a moving zebra-stripe pattern.]
[CHENG stands in the center of the screen with several animated cephalopods swimming around her.]
CHENG: There you have it, the ABCs of cephalopods. And this is just the tip of the iceberg of the intriguing knowledge we have of these amazing animals that are important parts of our oceans and of our lives.
How many hearts does an octopus have? Why do some squid glow in the dark? And what does a zebra display have to do with the giant Australian cuttlefish? Museum conservation biologist Samantha Cheng takes you through the world of cephalopods, from A to Z.