The little critter causing all the hype from southern Baja to Monterey and up to Alaska is the Loligo opalescens, otherwise known as the California market squid. Although squid are technically in the phyla of mollusks, many scientists say that squid-along with their cephalopod cousins, the octopus and cuttlefish-behave more like fish than their spineless buddies.

"Squid are far and away the most intelligent of invertebrates," explains William Gilly, neurobiologist at the Hopkins Marine Station. "They have the most neurons, the biggest brains and nerve cells, and remarkably complicated behaviors and problem-solving skills."

These little brainiacs reproduce in summertime, stealing the nighttime to mate at depths of 70 feet or more. The females then anchor white finger-like egg cases known as "squid candles" to the ocean floor. The candles produce tens of thousands of baby squidlets.

And they''re good-looking too, ranging in height from 8-20 centimeters with white flesh tinged with reddish brown. A schooling fish with an extremely collective-oriented consciousness, squid are said to "live fast and die young," possess excellent vision, and have a startling memory capacity. Perhaps squid''s best-known characteristic is its "ink sac" full of dark red liquid, which it spews out to confuse predators. So far, though, squid haven''t found anything that blinds the fishermen.

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