Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom

Research Article

On the use of ammonium for buoyancy in squids

M. R. Clarkea1, E. J. Dentona1 and J. B. Gilpin-Browna1

a1 The Laboratory, Marine Biological Association, Citadel Hill, Plymouth

Squids (teuthoids) fall into two distinct groups according to their density in sea water. Squids of one group are considerably denser than sea water and must swim to stop sinking; squids in the other group are nearly neutrally buoyant. Analyses show that in almost all the neutrally buoyant squids large amounts of ammonium are present. This ammonium is not uniformly distributed throughout the body but is mostly confined to special tissues where its concentration can approach half molar. The locations of such tissues differ according to the species and developmental stage of the squid. It is clear that the ammonium-rich solution are almost isosmotic with sea water but of lower density and they are present in sufficient volume to provide the main buoyancy mechanism of these squids. A variety of evidence is given which suggests that squids in no less than 12 of the 26 families achieve near-neutral buoyancy in this way and that 14 families contain squids appreciably denser than sea water [at least one family contains both types of squid]. Some of the ammonium-rich squids are extremely abundant in the oceans.