We Aren’t Squidding Around—It’s Cephalopod Week 2021!
The wait is over—Cephalopod Week 2021 is finally here. It’s Science Friday’s annual cephalo-bration of all things mostly-tentacled, and this year’s lineup of events is going to be ceph-tacular.
Visit behind-the-scenes at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, play deep sea trivia, watch mini documentaries, chat with real scientists working with cephalopods every day, join our Sea of Support, and a whole lot more.
Diana Montano, SciFri’s outreach manager and emcee of the deep sea, joins Ira and Science Diction host Johanna Mayer to kick things off, with some trivia about the origins of squiddy words.
Johanna Mayer is a podcast producer and hosted Science Diction from Science Friday. When she’s not working, she’s probably baking a fruit pie. Cherry’s her specialty, but she whips up a mean rhubarb streusel as well.
Diana Plasker is the Experiences Manager at Science Friday, where she creates live events and partnerships to delight and engage audiences in the world of science.
IRA FLATOW: The waiting is over, folks. Science Friday’s Cephalopod Week is finally here. It’s, of course, our annual cephalobration of all things mostly tentacled. l And if you’re as big a squid head as I am, you have tons to look forward to.
Here to tell us all about it is Science Friday seer of Cephalopod Week, Diana Montano. Welcome, Diana.
DIANA MONTANO: Thanks, Ira. Are you excited for Cephalopod Week?
IRA FLATOW: Oh, boy, am I. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
DIANA MONTANO: It certainly is. Well, this year we have a bunch of things going on. We’ll get to visit behind the scenes at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, play deep-sea trivia, watch mini documentaries, chat with real scientists working with cephalopods every day, and a whole lot more. I am so incredibly excited for this year’s celebration.
IRA FLATOW: Me, too. So Diana, not only are you the Ceph Week maestro, but you’re also the Science Friday trivia master. So to kick things off, you’re going to quiz me on my cephalopod know-how. Now, I know my cuttlefish from my nautilus, but, just in CASE I’ve called in some backup.
Playing with me today is our resident word nerd and host of our podcast Science Diction, Johanna Mayer. Welcome, Johanna.
JOHANNA MAYER: Hey, Ira. It’s good to be here.
IRA FLATOW: Thank goodness you are here. OK, Diana, I think we’re finally ready for you.
DIANA MONTANO: Amazing. All right, so these are multiple choice QUESTIONS which all have to do with cephalopod word origins. First, I’ll read a little description, and then I’ll ask you a question. Then I’ll read your multiple choice options. You two confer with each other on which answer you want to go for. If you get it right, you’ll hear this sound.
And if you get it wrong– I don’t think it’ll happen– but you’ll hear the sound.
IRA FLATOW: Wow. Jumping in to say this is Science Friday from WNYC Studios. OK, Diana, back to you.
DIANA MONTANO: All right, so here’s question 1. What do you call a tiny octopus with big eyes, floppy little ear-like fins, and that’s cute as a button? In 2015, Stephanie Bush and her team at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute were tasked to classify and name this newly caught and previously undescribed deep-sea cephalopod. It’s from the genus Opisthoteuthis, and I need to know what name did they end up naming the species.
Remember, this is a story from 2015, and it’s either, A, californiana, for where it’s collected and described, B, [? lucena, ?] after the Latin word for flap, C, adorabilis, because it’s just so dang cute, or, D, [? stephania, ?] after Dr. Bush herself who helped collect it.
JOHANNA MAYER: I actually know this one.
IRA FLATOW: Yeah, this was so cute, we could not not know this.
JOHANNA MAYER: I know. I’m actually going to demand that we see a photo of this next time.
IRA FLATOW: [LAUGHS]
JOHANNA MAYER: It’s C, adorabilis, right, Ira?
IRA FLATOW: Adora– absolutely, adorabilis, C, final answer.
JOHANNA MAYER: What?
IRA FLATOW: No.
JOHANNA MAYER: No.
DIANA MONTANO: The correct answer is A, californiana.
JOHANNA MAYER: No, it’s not!
IRA FLATOW: No.
JOHANNA MAYER: That’s not–
IRA FLATOW: It can’t be.
DIANA MONTANO: Here, let me tell you the full story. All right, so we’re not exactly sure why they didn’t end up going with adorabilis. But if you’ve seen the Science Friday video, this is what they thought they were going to call it, but I guess not everyone in the scientific community thinks this creature is as lovable as the rest of us.
JOHANNA MAYER: I feel so cheated.
IRA FLATOW: Yeah, don’t you feel cheated on that? I thought we had a lock on that.
JOHANNA MAYER: I’m going to continue to call it adorabilis.
IRA FLATOW: Yeah, me, too.
DIANA MONTANO: You should. You should. Well, so you two probably know some of this, but there’s a whole branch of scientific study called taxonomy. And we have Carl Linnaeus to thank for our binomial, or two-word naming system, where we basically just say the genus and species to refer to a specific animal, plant, or other living thing.
These days, the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature is used by biologists to name species. And so there are 18 chapters to this code. There are 90 articles. So there’s a lot of rules. And apparently, picking the cutest name is not one of those rules.
IRA FLATOW: Find me the rule for the appeals process on this.
JOHANNA MAYER: [LAUGHS] Yeah, I will sign the petition. We are not off to a great start with this, Ira.
IRA FLATOW: No, we’ll do better.
DIANA MONTANO: All right, are you guys ready for a question 2?
IRA FLATOW: Question 2, go for it.
JOHANNA MAYER: Redeem ourselves.
IRA FLATOW: Yeah.
DIANA MONTANO: The origins of the word ink go way back. Originally, the word was enka. It was a shortening from the Latin encaustum. And so special inks have special names like sacrum encaustum, which was a purple-red ink used by the Roman emperors to sign their important decrees. And it’s actually made from shellfish, but they’re not the only invertebrates that were used for inks.
What color is named after the pigment collected from the ink sac of a common cuttlefish? Is it, A, sepia, B, aquamarine, C, fuchsia, or, D, umber?
IRA FLATOW: Gee, I don’t know this at all. What color–
JOHANNA MAYER: What color is umber again?
DIANA MONTANO: It’s kind of like a yellowy brown.
IRA FLATOW: Yeah.
JOHANNA MAYER: Oh.
IRA FLATOW: Yeah. A, C? Well, what do you think, Johanna?
JOHANNA MAYER: As usual, I’m sort of at a loss, but I kind of have a hunch that it’s sepia.
IRA FLATOW: OK, I’ll go with you on sepia.
JOHANNA MAYER: Why not? We have no better guess.
IRA FLATOW: Yeah, yeah.
JOHANNA MAYER: OK, final answer, A, sepia.
DIANA MONTANO: Hey!
JOHANNA MAYER: Thank Goodness.
DIANA MONTANO: That is the correct answer. Congratulations.
IRA FLATOW: Yeah, just like on my SATs, this is how I did it, yeah.
JOHANNA MAYER: Just guessed?
IRA FLATOW: That’s it.
DIANA MONTANO: One on, one off. So sepia ink was pretty commonly used for writing, drawing, and any other of your penned needs in Greco-Roman civilization. Eventually, it was used in the 19th century to help warm up black and white photographs and help preserve the image longer, so that’s why we use a sepia filter on Instagram. But you can also thank cephalopods for those old but still recognizable photographs of your great, great ancestors.
IRA FLATOW: Oh.
DIANA MONTANO: And if you liked this teaser, we’re going to have some more trivia for you over on the Science Diction podcast feed next week, so subscribe here for an extra dose of cephalopod wordplay.
IRA FLATOW: Thanks, Diana and Johanna. Great game.
DIANA MONTANO: Thanks, Ira.
JOHANNA MAYER: Thanks, Ira.