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1 individual specimen found for Abralia (Asteroteuthis) veranyi.

Abralia (Asteroteuthis) veranyi (Ruppell, 1844)  Species

Synonymy

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Abralia veranyi (Rüppell, 1844).

(Dates of more important references italicized.)

1844. Enoploteuthis Verany Rüppell.—Giorn. Gab. Messina, 26, p.3, f. 2.

1851. Enoploteuthis Veranyi Vérany.—Céph. médit., p. 83, p1. 30, f. b.

1879. Enoploteuthis Veranyi Tryon.—Man. Conch. (I), v. I, p. 173, p1. 76, f. 318-319 (after Vérany).

1880. Abralia veranii and Veranyi Steenstrup.—Overs. K. D. Vid. Selsk. Forh. 1880, p. 92, 110 [22, 40], pl. 3, f. 2-6.

1886. Abralia veranyi Hoyle.—Ceph. Challenger Exp., p. 38, 217 (merely catalogued).

1895. Abralia Oweni Joubin.—Mém. Soc. Zoöl. France, v. 8, p. 220 [9], f. 6-11 (photogenic organs).

1899. Abralia Veranyi and Enoploteuthis Verany “Rüppel” Ficalbi.—Monit. Zoöl. Ital., v. 10, p. 80-82,text f. 2 (after Rüppell).

1900. Abralia armata (pars) Pfeffer.—Synops. œgops. Ceph., p. 167.

1900. Asteroteuthis veranyi Pfeffer.—Teuthol. Bemerk., p. 289.

1912. Asteroteuthis Veranyi Pfeffer.—Monogr. Œgops., p. 129, 785, 794, p1. 16.

1912. Abralia Veranyi Pfeffer.—id., p. 785, 794.

1922. Abralia veranyi Mortara.—R. Com. Talass. Ital., Mem. 95, p. 1-20, text f. 1-2, pl. (photogenic organs).

A careful comparison of the Madeiran specimens with that from Messina and with the lengthy account given by Pfeffer has brought to light no points of difference thought to be in any respect essential from the taxonomic standpoint. As will be seen from the appended table of measurements, the dimensions of the Madeiran examples are as a rule well in excess of those of the individual from Messina, but this is very decidedly more true of the two females than of the single male and may possibly prove to be, in part at least, a secondary attribute of sex. The wider, more flaring mantle possessed by all three Madeiran examples is doubtless but an incident of the mechanics of their preservation. The same is doubtless true of the apparent great number of chromatophores resulting in the consequent darker color of these specimens. The greater conspicuousness of the chromatophores seems to carry a concomitant accentuation of the photophores so that at first sight they appear much more numerous than in the Messina specimen. The attempt to count the photophores in corresponding areas, however, has not led to proof of any actual critical difference in their number.

The male indeed does show a few slight differences in the structure of its beautifully preserved hectocotylus, especially in the fact that the tip of the modified arm is so produced and attenuated beyond the curious fleshy folds which are a feature of the distal part of this arm in the present species, and regarding the exact function of which we are still quite in the dark except that there seems good reason to believe that they may serve in some fashion or other in the manipulation and fixation of the spermatophores.

This male and one of the females show but three hooks on each tentacle club. The other female has three hooks and a possible remnant of a more minute proximal one on the left club, while the right club bears four hooks in agreement with both clubs of the Messina specimen. These seem but normal variations. I have noticed no record of any specimens with clubs bearing less than two nor more than four hooks.

A certain degree of sexual dimorphism is, as already noted, indicated by the present specimens, but it is not conspicuous, being chiefly manifested by the somewhat smaller body and fins of the male. The differences noted appear both absolute and relative. The fins are almost equally wide in proportion to mantle length in both males and females, but in the former they are relatively somewhat shorter, giving an index of about 60 as against 66 in the females. The arms of the male on the other hand are somewhat longer in relation to the body than those of the female.

As was discovered by Steenstrup (‘80, p. 110), the spermatophores become attached in a rosette-like cluster to the inner surface of the mantle of the female, this being in the median line just back of the nuchal cartilage. These clusters are very conspicuous in both of the females before me, but there is present in each of them in addition to the principal rosette, a much smaller cluster of 4 to 8 spermatophores or remains of the same adhering to the visceral mass at its mesial junction with the collar, a position not quite opposite to that occupied by the main rosette, but more anterior. Possibly therefore this smaller cluster is to be regarded as a fragment of the larger one, adhering here accidentally at the time of the emplacement of the latter. In both of these specimens the ovaries are swollen and packed with developing ova. Just how soon the ova would be ready for extrusion is at present problematic.

TABLE OF MEASUREMENTS.

Locality

Messina

Funchal

Sex

mm.

mm.

mm.

mm.

Total length

110

115

120

130

Length of body, dorsal

40

40

45

46

Length of body, ventral

38

37

41

43

Tip of body to base of dorsal arms

54

52

61

60

Width of fin at widest point

14

17

17

18

Length of fin

23

24

30

30

Width across fins

33

37

38

42

Width of body

13

18

18

18

Depth of body

12

13

13

15

Width of head across eyes

15

12

11

14

Length of head (nuchal cartilage to base of dorsal arms)

13

12

15

15

Length of funnel, median

9

9

8

10

Length of right dorsal arm

21

29

28

26

Length of left dorsal arm

23

30

28

26

Length of right second arm

25

35

33

31

Length of left second arm

27

34

33

30

Length of right third arm

24

33

31

31

Length of left third arm

25

32

32

28

Length of right ventral arm

29

32

32

29

Length of left ventral arm

29

32

32

29

Length of right tentacle

54

62

62

68

Length of right tentacle club

9

9

11

11

Length of left tentacle

55

63

59

69

Length of left tentacle club

10

9

9.5

11

Length of hectocotylized part of left ventral arm (taken from last hook to tip)

8

10

-

-

The male shows a large spermatophore bundle in process of extrusion from Needham's sac and it may be added that the same observation is true of the male from Messina.

Upon writing to Senhor de Noronha and to Senhor Adão d'Abreu Nunes, to whom, I believe, belongs the credit for the actual capture of the specimens, these gentlemen courteously responded with notes of so great intrinsic interest that it seems desirable by means of a somewhat free translation to publish them in full, the more especially as direct observations on the luminosity of cephalopods in life under natural conditions are still of exceeding rarity.

The following excerpt is in free translation from a letter from Sr. de Noronha under date of November 13, 1921.

“In reading my notes, I find that the cephalopod was captured by a friend, a great fish enthusiast, toward midnight of the 19th of June, 1917, at the surface of the sea and in the artificial harbor of Pontinha, to the west of Funchal.

“I was there on the quay myself that selfsame evening, and I was very happily able to record that the animal was luminous, the light being very vivid and of a lovely ultramarine blue. One saw 5 lights (‘foyers'), disposed in an arc around the eye and on the lower region of this organ, 2 of these photophores being larger and 3 smaller. On the body, the head, and the arms there were many similar lights, which were more numerous on the ventral side. I also noticed that out of the water the animal was still very lively and tried to bite in its anger.

“From the jetty was perceived from time to time an individual which swam rapidly near the surface, giving out its phosphorescence, and then my friend from the top of the wall dexterously manipulated his long-handled ‘peneiro'(dip-net). I obtained in this manner a dozen examples, and I could have had many more if I had had need of them. It was an evening warm and calm, and it seems to me that it is for this fine weather that the Abralia shows preference. At least it is in summer and autumn that the charming cephalopod arrives near the walls of the harbor of Pontinha. This locality is very sheltered, almost closed to currents and winds, and it is perhaps this circumstance which draws it to this nook of the shore, attracted furthermore by the lamp which illumines the quay. Indeed, as I believe, this cephalopod has never been seen in the five less protected places on the south coast of Madeira, where, during the night, they drag the fish seines, and where it would be easy to capture them if they were there. I myself have investigated these places, but I have seen taken in the nets only the common cephalopods of Madeira: a Loligo, a Sepia, and a Polypus.

“I would also broach the opinion that the Abralia veranyi is an abyssal species which at night in summer migrates vertically and horizontally to attain the shore line, and by day betakes itself anew to the depths of the ocean.”

Under date of February 1, 1922, Sr. Nunes wrote me further:

“The cephalopod in question has been captured by myself in the sheltered quay of this city of Funchal, called the Quay of Pontinha, during the months of July, August, and September.—Almost every year one may capture them in this harbor during the night where they approach the steps of debarcation, following the lighting of the electric lamps of the above-mentioned steps. With a certain alacrity one may catch them with the aid of a little wire basket, because these animals come almost to the surface of the water, being distinguishable by the brilliancy (‘éclat') of a bluish phosphorescence which they cause to gleam from their eyes.”

From these notes it would appear that the phenomena described are distinctly seasonal in character. This fact, the exceeding vigor and activity evinced by the animals when captured, and finally my own observations on the physiological condition of both males and females, affords convincing evidence that the inshore nocturnal migration of the Madeiran Abralia is essentially of reproductive significance and has to do with either the mating or the spawning, or very possibly indeed with both. Such a conclusion finds the strongest possible confirmation in the detailed observations of Ishikawa (‘13) and Sasaki (‘14) on a somewhat nearly allied species of squid, Watasenia scintillans, the famous Firefly Squid (“Hotaru-ika”) of Japan. The parallel extends to still further particulars, but so little information of consequence concerning the habits and life histories of the smaller squids has accumulated that the Japanese observations are almost the only ones of any relevance to be found in the literature. Like the Abralia, Watasenia “is a deep-sea animal, living during the day in a depth of 100 or more fathoms, and when the night is at hand, they approach to the coast, and after sunset they lay the eggs, and as soon as they finish their spawning, go back to the deep sea” (Sasaki, ‘14, p. 95). After the fixation of the spermatophores in the nape of the female (in quite a different position, as it would appear, from what is to be observed in Abralia veranyi), the male Watasenia is thought to perish. The season of this extraordinary migration varies somewhat in different parts of the Japanese Empire, but in Toyama Bay on the west coast it is late April and May. Here the firefly squid comes inshore in such enormous numbers that their fishery is a considerable industry, the total catch being given by Sasaki as 1,000 tons. Due to the disappearance of mated males, nearly the entire catch seems to be comprised of females (one count given is 1 ♂ to 79 ♀♀). No juvenals are found with them, and only a small per cent. of those taken were found to have food in the stomach. A net drawn up at 9 or 10 P.M. is said to be better filled than one hauled in at 3 or 4 A.M., a circumstance which Sasaki suggests may be largely due to the fact that the schools swim in from the deep when sunset approaches, lay their eggs towards evening, and become entrapped in the nets on their way back. The fact that the Abralia is to be seen soon after the lights on the quay are illuminated may indicate that something of a nearly similar nature goes on here.

Sr. de Noronha’s allusion to the enraged state of the animal when captured is curiously in accord with the behavior of Watasenia at the height of its own (spring) migration, at which time Sasaki states that “they attacked us violently, biting our hands with their jaws.” Such as the Japanese catch in late summer or autumn, on the other hand, are quiet and show little vitality.

From the relative emphasis laid upon the sources of the animal's illumination by both Madeiran observers, but especially by Nunes, it would seem that the ocular photophores of this Abralia irradiate a conspicuously brighter light than the more abundant organs of the body surface. This is very much what one would superficially expect from the general appearance of these organs in the dead animal. Turning again to the Japanese species we find that Ishikawa (’13, p. 168) likewise states that of the three types of photophores found in Watasenia scintillans, at least two of which are entirely homologous with those of Abralia veranyi, the organs of the outer integument come last in the intensity of their light. Yet it must be remembered further that Sasaki, working more extendedly on the same species, was unable to make out any difference between the light of the ocular and that of the integumentary photophores. However this may be, the function of light production in both species would seem to be essentially the same. The brilliance of the display stressed by both Madeiran and Japanese observers, coinciding as it does in each case with the schooling habit, the nocturnal migration, and the period of sexual activity, is most readily interpreted as a mating phenomenon, at least in very large part. I do not mean by this that the sexes actually recognize one another's different nature by means of corresponding differences in the luminosity of male and female, although at the same time the possibility of such recognition should not be too quickly excluded from consideration merely because Sasaki, who inquired into this aspect of the question quite particularly, found himself entirely unable to distinguish the sexes merely by the light of the animals at night. For there is another important way in which the photogenic function could serve an animal behaving as Abralia veranyi does during the reproductive season, and that is by simply furnishing a visual method by which the schools can assemble or keep together during the vicissitudes of migration. If this be supplemented either by slight visible sex differences, or by some chemical or other means of inter-attraction, such an arrangement might be sufficiently adequate to insure the maintenance of the species. Further field observations with this point in mind would doubtless yield some valuable and entertaining information.

At first thought it seems passing strange that so conspicuous a phenomenon has not been observed more commonly. However, for the occurrence of species possessing such habits at stations convenient for observation near the shore there would seem to be required not alone shelter from heavy waves but an abrupt slope from the shore-line to the 100-fathom mark so that the contingent requirement for lateral migration be not too great, or similarly a near approach on the part of the deeper regions of the sea either by the agency of a submerged valley or some other considerable depression. Such conditions are perhaps not always found in appropriate combination in the regions inhabited by these species. Whatever the said conditions may be, Funchal evidently satisfies them, and so affords nearly ideal opportunity for the study of Abralia veranyi. It is hoped that possibly this will prove by no means the only enoploteuthid squid to be found there.

Whether the animal occurs in the near neighborhood of Madeira at all seasons of the year, or whether its nightly appearance in summer is but the visible culmination of a more extended series of migrations from much farther afield, is a final interesting problem which must be left for some future deep sea expedition to solve.

Acknowledgment is due to Senhores M. O. Perestrello & Fos. of Madeira for the use of the accompanying photograph, and to Sr. de Noronha for the original of the small sketch map appended. A grant from the Rumford Committee has also been a contributing factor in the preparation of this report.”

(Berry, 1926: 259-267)

Specimens

Type Status Catalog No. Date Collected Location Coordinates Depth (m) Vessel
  884996 3/28/1971 South Atlantic Ocean 34.4° S, 14.7° E 300 – 305 Walther Herwig R/V

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