Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Ambar. Ambar Wonders, “why do some people eat sea animals ” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Ambar!
Do you ever think back on those long summer nights when it seemed like you could play outside forever and the sun would never go down? It's easy to miss those days in the middle of winter when you get up before the sun and can barely get homework finished before it sets in the evening.
One of the things we like best about long summer nights is what happens after the sun does go down. That's when we would grab our glass jars and explore the backyard in search of fireflies (or lightning bugs, if you prefer that name).
A glass jar with a dozen or more fireflies makes a perfect light source for telling scary stories before bedtime. Their softly glowing lights can also help lull you into sleep after a hard day of play.
They're also the perfect midnight snack if you wake up hungry! Wait…what? Just kidding! We don't recommend eating fireflies in the middle of the night. However, there is one bioluminescent creature that can be eaten: the firefly squid.
Known scientifically as Watasenia scintillans, the firefly squid is sometimes called the sparkling enope squid. It can be found throughout the western Pacific Ocean, but especially large populations exist in Toyama Bay in Japan, where it's known as hotaru-ika.
A small member of the squid family (it grows to be about three inches long), the firefly squid gets its name from the fact that it lights up like a firefly thanks to hundreds of bioluminescent photophores that cover its body and emit a unique blue light.
Normally found at depths between 600-1,200 feet, the firefly squid rises to the surface during mating season (March to May). When millions of firefly squid approach the surface of Toyama Bay, they create a light show in the water and along the beaches that has become a tourist attraction that brings droves of people out in the middle of the night.
Scientists aren't sure exactly what purpose bioluminescence serves in the firefly squid. Some believe the glow may attract mates or help the squid communicate with rivals. Others think it may deter or confuse predators.
Could its lights attract prey? No one knows for sure. Scientists remain split among these theories. To date, no single theory has proved to be correct.
The firefly squid is also unique in that it's a bioluminescent creature that can be eaten. It's considered a delicacy in many countries, especially Japan where it's commercially fished during spawning season.
It can be prepared in a variety of ways, including being grilled, marinated, steamed, boiled, pickled, stewed, or fried. For locals in Japan, though, the best way to eat a firefly squid is to eat a whole, raw squid directly from the sea.
Not all people enjoy the squishy, chewy consistency of the firefly squid. Others don't like its strong flavor, which some believe resembles liver. For many Japanese, though, there's nothing like the taste of hotaru-ika.