Wake Up Call

Japanese Flying Squid Inseminates Woman's Mouth From Beyond the Grave

The cephalopod specialist over at the "Squid a Day" blog has pointed at the unusual case of a 63-year-old Korean woman who came to an emergency room complaining of "severe pain" and "a pricking and foreign-body sensation" in her mouth. These symptoms emerged immediately after attempting to consume an intact but parboiled Todarodes pacificus, a Japanese Flying Squid. A squid not unlike the one being consumed raw by the fine gentleman in this video:

The doctors checked inside her mouth and located, "Twelve small, white spindle-shaped, bug-like organisms." They removed what would be later identified as squid spermatophores from her tongue, cheek, and gums. Thankfully, the patient is said to have experienced immediate relief once the offending "white spindle[s]" were removed.

What is even more shocking is that this is hardly the first time oral insemination has been reported. The only thing that makes this case special is that the squid was at least somewhat cooked rather than wholly raw. Here are two cases of errant squid spermatophores "stinging" patients in Japan. Another two cases from Japan in the mid-'90s. And a recent case where the spermatophores were lodged in the top of the patients mouth.

To explain what happened here, we will need a basic understanding of squid reproduction. Making babies underwater is a tricky business so nature has developed a number of ways to get around the problem of matching sperm with egg in the middle of the ocean. For male squid this means putting their sperm into something called a spermatophore. A spermatophore is like a football made of tiny sperm rocket launchers. Instead of copulating like mammals, the male squid grabs his sperm-rocket-launcher-football and passes it to the female squid who places it inside her appropriate duct.

Once inside, the spermatophores ejaculate the sperm toward the eggs. To facilitate this process, the spermatophore/sperm-football, also packs a sticky adhesive to aid with attachment. Here's a fascinating video showing the giant spermatophores of a giant squid at work.

Since the squid the woman consumed in this case was more or less whole, the spermatophores were intact. As you can see from the video it doesn't take much to set off a spermatophore and that the ejaculation of the sperm is quite forceful. "Squid a Day" is currently talking with a squid spermatophore specialist and a forthcoming article will hopefully shed more light on this intriguing but horrifying process.

Clearly the take-away lesson is that precautions must be taken when consuming any kind of raw food. The reason there aren't more cases like this is because most methods of squid preparation involve the removal of all the internal organs including any spermatophores. Clearly, if that simple precaution had been taken here this whole awkward situation could have been avoided.

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Ando Muneno
Contact: Ando Muneno