A 63-year-old South Korean woman was shocked to learn she “became pregnant” with 12 baby squid after eating a portion of calamari. The story – definitely giving new meaning to the term “Octomom” – was detailed in a scientific paper authored by researchers at the Kwandong University College of Medicine.
Here’s what happened: The unnamed woman, who we will refer to here as “New Octomom,” said she was eating a portion of whole squid when she felt an extremely sharp pain in her mouth. She told doctors she could feel something in her mouth, which she described as “bug-like organisms.”
“She did not swallow the portion, but spat it out immediately,” the researchers wrote. “She complained of a pricking and foreign-body sensation in the oral cavity.”
After the woman was hospitalized, doctors discovered “baby cephalopods” – tiny pods covered in a cementlike material to make them stick – attached to the inside of her mouth. The pods, which covered her gums, tongue and cheek, were filled with an “ejaculatory apparatus” and sperm, with the apparatus discharging the sperm very forcefully.
“Twelve small, white spindle-shaped, bug-like organisms stuck in the mucous membrane of the tongue, cheek, and gingiva were completely removed, along with the affected mucosa,” the researchers said. “On the basis of their morphology and the presence of the sperm bag, the foreign bodies were identified as squid spermatophores.”
Spermatophores, according to Science 2.0, are packages that carry semen and other tools that attach themselves to the female squid’s body. Spermatophores are adhesive in some species of squid, which allows them to easily glue onto the surface of the female’s skin.
“Spermatophores are either transferred to the female by the male’s hectocotylus, a specialised arm, or by a long penis, which is present in species that lack hectocotyli,” explained the Biological Bulletin. “After being discharged from the spermatophore in the spermatophoric reaction, the sperm mass is encased in a thin covering, with the cement body at one end.*This discharged structure, the spermatangium, may attach to the skin of the female or be deeply embedded in her skin or muscle.”
The spermatophores are powerful enough to penetrate skin, which is exactly what happened when “New Octomom” happened upon a squid that was not quite as dead as she’d hoped.
While this case is certainly unique, it is not the first complaint of an unwanted pregnancy from a squid. Last December, a woman in Japan complained of sharp pains in her mouth after consuming raw squid. She took what was left of the squid she ate to the Tosei General Hospital, where the sperm bags were removed from her mouth.
The incidents, by and large, have largely occurred in the Far East, where consumption of raw foods – especially seafood – is much more common. In contrast, Western cultures tend to remove the squid’s internal organs so there’s no risk of accidentally eating a rogue spermatophore.
“The skin on your hands, and most of the rest of your body, is much too thick to get stuck,” said Danna Staaf, a squid enthusiast from Science 2.0. “I’ve probably had hundreds of spermatophores ejaculate on my fingers and never felt a sting.”
The reproduction habits of deep-sea squids are largely unknown, mainly because their habitat is so difficult to routinely visit and explore, but the pain felt by the New Octomom was likely the penetration of the squid’s ejaculatory apparatus into her skin tissue.