Dec 12 2012

Hundreds of Humboldt squid wash up on Aptos area beaches

APTOS — Hundreds of Humboldt squid washed up on Santa Cruz County beaches Sunday in a mass stranding that is not uncommon but remains somewhat of a mystery to marine scientists.

The even more intriguing question, they say, is why the voracious feeders, also called jumbo flying squid, began venturing up to the Central Coast in 2000 from the Sea of Cortez and other warmer spots — and what their effect is on the ocean environment.

As for the stranding, Hopkins University researcher William Gilly said mass strandings are common when squid invade a new area. In late October, about 100 washed up in Pacific Grove.

They stop if squid colonize successfully or leave the area, Gilly said, a pattern common on the West Coast between 2002-2009.

“My theory is that when the squid invade a new area — they are returning to Monterey Bay for the first time in nearly three years, and the squid are only 8 or 9 months old — they follow an algorithm (which is to) swim and find productive areas, especially by investigating anomalies, until you run into trouble,” he said. “That mission takes some of them onto the beach. The question I can’t answer is why they stop doing this after they successfully colonize an area. Perhaps the real pioneers are selected out, or maybe the survivors of a stranding go back to sea and warn the others.”

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