As part of our ongoing campaign here to make you doublecheck to see which one of the bloggers here wrote a post, I offer this story about a mass stranding of Humboldt squid, Dosidicus gigas, near Santa Cruz, California. Hundreds of the poor things have washed up on the beaches around Santa Cruz in the last few days:
Humboldt squid have been seen in much greater than usual numbers in Monterey Bay, where the stranding took place, since 2000 or so. Before that there were more commonly associated with nearby semitropical bodies of water like the Sea of Cortez. Some have conjectured that warming ocean temperatures have encourage the giant squid to move northward.
The Sea of Cortez lies atop a geological rift valley at the north end of the East Pacific Rise, and as a result of the tectonic rifting, which is peeling the Baja Peninsula and some of Southern California away from the North American continent, the Sea reaches depths of about 3,000 meters, or close to 10,000 feet.
In other words, the heating up of a deep rift is thought to have played a role in an invasion of squid. #ftbullies
Santa Cruz is a pretty strongly feminist town, but perhaps the squid were aiming for the boyzone tech communities of Silicon Valley, just across the mountains.
More prosaically, it’s possible something similar to the well-known seasonal red tide bloom might have poisoned the squid. Apparently some of the dead squid have tested positive for domoic acid, a bioaccumulative algal toxin.
Really, the best thing about this story is the San Jose Mercury News’ description of the Humboldt squid:
The dark red squid beached during the weekend are 2 to 3 feet long with enormous eyes and long tentacles extending from their mouth. Their predators include blue sharks, sperm whales and Risso’s dolphins. They eat 50 to 60 different species of fish, can change their size from generation to generation to cope with varying food supplies, and can reproduce in huge numbers. The larger females produce translucent egg sacks the size of a small car containing 20 million to 30 million eggs.
I’ll start really worrying when it looks like they can modify the ability to breathe air from generation to generation.
As one of the aforementioned tech boys, I for one, welcome our new cephalopod overlords!
PZ Myers says
Does this mean that I have to write about Joshua trees tomorrow?
Yeah, red tide! That’s what it was!
Pay no attention–nothing to see here, move along!
SC (Salty Current), OM says
If only someone could think of an everyday object to compare them to so people can appreciate their size. …
I know! Dinner plates!
F [disappearing] says
Uh huh. HAARP did it.
Chris Clarke says
Via a team of highly trained “Seals”.
A. R says
Did anyone check them for laser attachments? We don’t want to waste this valuable opportunity to collect intelligence on this grave threat.
Did you see the whale sightings in Santa Cruz this year? It’s been awesome, although all I’ve seen is dolphins. There haven’t been whales in the Santa Cruz moorage in… Well, I don’t know any records of them! And they haven’t stopped to feed here since Steinbeck was run out of Monterey. And they were doing both!
The red tides are pretty nasty, tho, so I usually stick to the beaches north of town in the fall.
The first squid at around the 18 sec mark looks vaguely like a severed arm at first glance.
Yeah, about that… I don’t suppose it would be possible to get your avatars above/next to your name? I’m slowly training myself to check the byline on each post, but I’m pretty sure my brain would identify the author visually before I’ve even located the name on the page.
Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says
Giant squid have beaks. Them attempting any kind of head is terrifying. O.O
Chris Clarke says
I’m pushing for a way to have all my posts show up in Papyrus.
Rodney Nelson says
Admit it, you hate us.
Seeing as I was already messing about with the page CSS to figure out what’s wrong with preview links, I masochistically thought to myself, “what would a page full of Papyrus look like?”, and tested it.
Chris, if you ever attempt this, I will cut you.
There was a beaching of Humbolt squid here in Oregon a couple years ago, at Heceta Head, just north of Florence. I’m surprised that people write about them, but nobody ever mentions the claws. It’s quite a surprise to some people that some squid, the Humbolt included, have hooked cat-claws in place of suckers. Their beaks are nasty, but they can flay you with their tentacles too. Fortunately for us, they are very short-lived, and they almost always leave their lasers behind when they come to the surface.
Oh, the Humbanity. :(
Some notes from an expert local to Monterey, Gary Sharp:
These things are vicious predators and others have noted probable impacts on Salmon populations as far north as British Columbia over the last decade or so.
SallyStrange: Elite Femi-Fascist Genius says
It’s easy for me to tell which posts are yours and which are PZ’s, because I can understand yours (the science-related ones, I mean).
so why do they beach themselves? I saw a article earlier and it said they did not know for sure about this one and mentioned other times but said nothing. asked some guy wow squid wow. I know that if they ever do find out it wont be publicized unless it is sensationalize-able.
but nobody ever mentions the claws. It’s quite a surprise to some people that some squid, the Humbolt included, have hooked cat-claws in place of suckers. Their beaks are nasty, but they can flay you with their tentacles too.
these are interesting….they grab you even a day after the squid is dead. i kept some tentacles for bait once after i gave away the 40lb body and they would hang onto my hand the next day. no volitional effort required. dead Cthulhu and all that.