Freaky Fish Friday: Nat Geo’s Dr. Brady Barr has a Dangerous Encounter with a Humboldt Squid

Filed Under (Freaky Fish Friday, On TV) by Alexa & Cindy on 30-07-2010

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We’ve taken a little break after our Sharktakular last week, but we’re back, and want to wish you a happy Freaky Fish Friday and a great weekend.

Today, Nat Geo Channel serves up our FFF via its Dangerous Encounters  episode featuring an ambitious research team that wants to put an underwater camera in places its never been.

Tonight, at 9p.m. ET/6p.m. PT, that camera will attempt to reside on a Humboldt squid, a ferocious predator whose mouth you never want to get your fingers anywhere near.

Alexa caught up with the show’s host, Dr. Brady Barr, and had a few biting questions she just had to ask.

Check out this amazing video featuring Barr’s second encounter with a Humboldt squid, then read Alexa’s Q & A with the good Doctor.

What would you do if you came face-to-face with a Humboldt squid?


Alexa: What made you want to study Humboldt squids?

Brady Barr: Im always fascinated with predators, especially little known predators, and ones that you can’t see in captivity. They epitomize “wildness” and “untamed”.

Animals, like the Humboldts, or adult Great White sharks, are so special because it doesnt matter who you are, how much money you have, or how powerful you might be, you still have to be graced by their presence. You cant go to a zoo or aquarium to see these beasts, you have to simply be graced by them in the wild. For me, it simply does not get any better than that.

A: How do you feel about the risks of doing this job?

BB: The risks concern me greatly, but the thirst to learn more about these mysterious animals is also great. Expeditions involving animals and in places that are not in the realm of my expertise are always very stressful. I did take some precautions. I had an expert diver in the water with me at all times who’s sole responsibility was my safety.

At the end of the day I am willing to take some chances, especially when it comes to such a charismatic, little understood predator as the Humboldt Squid.

In addition, the chance to do something that has never been done before (put an untethered camera on one to acquire first ever footage of these creatures in their element, at depth without the aid of lights, submersibles, or divers) is just too alluring…like the song of the mythical siren! In today’s world there aren’t many big apex predators that the scientific community doesn’t know much about. I was honored to be on this expedition.

A: How did you feel when you slipped the camera sleeve over the first squid?

BB: I was very skeptical. I wasn’t convinced that the sleeve design would work, so I was much relieved as well as surprised when it actually stayed on the squid. It was awesome to touch such an animal, that so little is known about, one that is so mysterious, and calls it’s home the abyss. For a guy that grew up in the cornfields of southern Indiana, it was beyond my wildest dreams!

A: What did you think when the squid didn’t immediately swim away?

BB: That didn’t surprise me. I have worked with wild animals for 20 years, and i have learned that being captured is a stressful, exhausting, ordeal, for them. It takes them time to recover and get their bearings. I am sure we would be the same way. I was just glad the squid decided t return to the depths instead of look for a little payback.

A: Was it you holding the octopus? If so, what did it feel like?

BB: Yes, I captured the octopus. It was so thrilling, because its a really big animal, and really powerful, yet very methodical, content, almost passive. It showed no ill will towards us interacting with it, no aggression what so ever. They’re very intelligent animals. I felt honored to be interacting with it.

A: Do you think the Humboldt squid would win in a battle against a Great White?

No way! The Humboldt is an awesome predator, but few predators can stand up against a one or two-ton, 18-foot Great White. I just returned from a Great White Expedition, so I got to see their awesome, almost incomprehensible power first hand. Now, if we were talking about a giant squid (Architeuthis), of 60 feet long, then I would put my money on the squid.

A: You learned a lot of new things about Humboldts with this research. What do and/or your colleagues plan to do with it, and what would you like to find out next about the Humboldt?

BB: I’m no squid expert, but the squid researchers we had with us were simply astounded with the footage we captured. Not only did we get a glimpse into the world of the squid, we also saw communication between individuals, social behavior, as well as aggression.

I have done a lot of research on bite force, so I was especially intrigued by the bite force data we gathered. A thousand pound bite was simply mind blowing for me, I’m not sure I even believe it!

A bite of that magnitude makes it one of the strongest biters on the planet, up there with crocs, and hyenas. And the squid is an invertebrate! Unreal. I definitely plan to return to the sea of Cortez and do some more bite force experiments.

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A conversation with Expedition: Great White’s Dr. Micheal Domeier

Filed Under (On TV, Sharks) by Alexa & Cindy on 11-07-2010

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This summer, we’ve become hooked on NatGeo’s Expedition: Great White. We’ve got a little think called the Summer Sharktakular coming up in a week – btw, have you sent in your photo contest entry yet?

Anyway… we don’t want the series to end, as it does tonight at 10 p.m. eastern time on the NatGeo Channel. So we decided to talk to its lead scientist, Dr. Michael Domeier, to get some answers to our questions and feel like we’re delaying the inevitable a bit.

 Here’s what Alexa wanted to know from Dr. Domeier, and a preview of the series’ final episode. Don’t miss it!

Alexa: What made you want to study Great Whites?

Michael Domeier: I get asked that question a lot, Alexa.  It really is an interesting story, since truth be told I never intentionally decided to start studying white sharks.  I had initiated a bluefin tuna project with a friend and donor name Tom Pfleger.  The intent of the project was to electronically tag and track a very unique population of very large bluefin tuna that resided at Guadalupe Island, Mexico.  In the late 90’s Tom and I took several trips to Guadalupe Island to catch and tag these big bluefin, the only problem was that the bluefin had either left or been fished out of existence.  However, we did find a number of white sharks at the island.  During our last trip to catch bluefin we tagged a few white sharks simply because we couldn’t find the bluefin and the batteries in our electronic tags were going to expire.  The results from these first few tagged sharks were so astonishing, that we gradually grew into what is now, arguably, the most comprehensive white shark research project in the world.

A:  How did you feel when that first female broke the hook [in the first episode]?

MD:  I was shocked.  I was also concerned that the hooks I had made for this project were not going to be up to the task.  There weren’t any circle hooks that size available, so I had to make that one by heating and bending a J-hook.  I think the heating and bending compromised the integrity of the metal alloy.  Fortunately the hooks did work well enough to get us started, and now a hook manufacturer (Mustad) makes these hooks for us and that are much stronger.

A: You said in the first episode that sharks have an important role in our marine ecosystem, and that if we lose sharks, that ecosystem changes – for the worse. Can you speak to that some more? We are very interested in your views, as we are hosting a shark conservation week on Oceans 4Ever starting July 19th.

MD:  Sharks occupy many niches in the marine environment, from scavengers to apex predators.  Our marine ecosystems evolved with sharks in these important roles, and if they disappear the ecosystem could get out of balance.  I think the huge increase in the populations of the predatory squid species, Dosidicus gigas, may be a good example.  Sharks, and other top predators like tuna and marlin, normally eat lots of squid and keep these critters in check.  Now that we have wiped out many of the squid’s predators, the squid population has dramatically increased and many more reach a very large size (100+ lbs).  Now the squid are eating everything in sight, and this predatory pressure by large squid could actually prevent the other predators from rebounding, since the squid can eat all of their young offspring.

A:  How do you feel about Keiko’s scars?

MD:  All of the white sharks we observe and capture have many scars.  Most of these scars were inflicted by other white sharks.  White sharks do not like each other and they seem to fight often.  Also, male white sharks bite down on the females when they mate…how’s that for romance!
A:  How do you think we will need protect Great Whites going forward? What do we need more of and what do we need to change?

MD: I think we need to identify the preferred habitats and geographic regions that the different life history stages of white sharks prefer.  By doing this we can identify the times and places when this species is most vulnerable, at which times governments can take steps to protect them.
A:  What’s next for you in your research? Where do you hope to be with it next year at this time?

MD:  I think we have made huge strides in unraveling the secrets of adult white sharks.  I have to make a few more trips to increase sample sizes for adults, but I want to turn my attention to juveniles and sub adults…those stages we know very little about and they are most likely the most vulnerable.  I also want to begin to study a wider array of species.

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National Geographic premiers “Expedition Great White” shark adventure series Sunday, June 6

Filed Under (On TV, Sharks) by Alexa & Cindy on 05-06-2010

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It’s the largest predatory fish on earth.

Reaching up to 20 feet long, weighing up to 6,000 pounds, sporting serrated teeth and an ability to smell blood in the water up to three miles away, the Great White shark is




It’s also an extremely important part of the ocean’s ecosystem, and, as you might guess, a bit tough to get close to.

Head out with an elite team of shark scientists and sports fisherman as they pilot a specially-equipped research boat on the high seas to find, tag and release this magnificent creature so they can track, research and unlock the mysteries of the Great White.

This Sunday, 9PM Eastern/Pacific time, on the NatGEO Channel (and Sundays all summer @ 10PM Eastern/Pacific).

Check out this preview of episode one (and trust us, we’ve seen it – you don’t want to miss this adventure!), then find your local listings and tune in!

There’s more: NatGeo is giving away a trip to San Diego that includes a one-day excursion at sea with the crew of Expedition Great White. Contest starts on Sunday and you can enter here.

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