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"Is the poison sac in the squid dangerous enough to kill you?"

"I wanted to ask about the poison at the bottom of little squids which are taken out before the actual squid is eaten. Tell me, is the poison sac in the squid dangerous enough to kill you?"

- Sophia Nahim


Still have more questions? You'll find more answers in our archived monthly feature articles by the Inquisitive Cooks.

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Dear Sophia,

We did lots of hunting to track down the answer for this intriguing question and in the process we've learned a great deal about the fascinating lives of squid and octopuses (a class called Cephalopods) Octopuses, in particular, appear to be very clever creatures.
With respect to the differences between their inks, James Peterson's excellent book, Fish and Shellfish ( Morrow & Co., 1996) suggests that cuttlefish (which are similar to squid but larger) have larger ink sacs, filled with a thick, powerful ink, while squid have smaller ink sacs, and the ink itself is paler. In the recent cooking sources we've checked, there is little mention of using octopus ink, though most certainly they do have ink sacs too. Perhaps some readers can add to our knowledge here.

To answer your question about the toxicity of the inks we turned to Steven Webster, Senior Marine Biologist, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, California. We greatly appreciate his speedy and concise response.

"All squids and octopuses have a venom gland and venomous bite, but the venom the ink are two different things. I find no references to the ink's being toxic itself, although it apparently may be somewhat toxic to other octopuses in a confined space. Perhaps the ink interferes with normal respiration, or other physiological activities, of the octopus.

Squid and octopus inks are often consumed by humans in recipes for these species and, of course, by their natural predators. There is apparently no harmful effect in doing this."

Steven also suggests the following relevant web site for those who want to learn more. There's an interesting article on Italian restaurants in Japan and the delights of Ikasumi spaghetti: And if you're interested in learning more about the Monterey Bay Aquarium, please look up the aquarium's Website at




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