Why Are There So Many Squid?

By September 26, 2011 Ocean News
Humboldt Squid
Humboldt Squid

One of hundreds of Humboldt Squid beached in San Diego

Within the past weeks, hundreds of Humboldt squid have washed up onto shores of San Diego and Orange County beaches in California, and still researchers are not certain why. On Blacks Beach in San Diego three to four hundred squid swarmed the sandy shoreline, while on San Clemente beaches between 100 and 200 dead squid were washed onshore.

Climate Change Cause of Increase in Range

Some causes of this recent squid overload could be spawning, overfishing of their predators, and climate change. Researchers say that this could simply be a natural event occurring related to spawning. After a squid spawns, it is thought to die and could then wash up on beaches. Humboldt squid, once thought to inhabit east Pacific tropical and subtropical waters, have been expanding their northward and southward ranges in the past decade. Recently, the squid have been spotted as far up north as Alaska. This could be related to climate change and warmer temperature ranges in the ocean. As a result, they’ve become common in waters off Southern California, and incidences of squid washed ashore, which used to be rare, have increased since 2003. Declining numbers of their predators (whales, sharks, seals, swordfish, and marlin), due to overfishing, could be responsible for the squid masses as well.

The Humboldt Squid

The Humboldt squid are also known as jumbo squid, flying squid, and red devils. They are most commonly found between depths of 200 and 700 meters, from Tierra del Fuego to California. The deep sea squid may grow up to six feet and weigh up to 100 pounds. Their tentacles are lined with suckers and teeth, enabling them to drag prey to their powerful beak. Humboldt squid are known to hunt near the surface at night, taking advantage of the dark to use their keen vision to feed on prey.

The Future of Humbolt Squid

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that by the end of this century, ocean acidification will lower the Humboldt squid’s metabolic rate by 31 percent and activity levels by 45 percent. This will lead the squid to have to retreat to shallower waters where they can uptake oxygen at higher levels. This also could lead to more calamari washing up on more beaches, especially after spawning events.

About the Author

Kate Galloway is currently finishing up her Bachelors of Science in Marine biology at UC Santa Cruz. Her deep love for the ocean started on the California beaches of San Diego as a child growing up. Her love for the warm waters of the West coast grew into an enthusiasm for conserving the ocean, and every thing that resides within it. She has a wide variety of experience in communicating ocean science through teaching, research, and now writing. She hopes to one day work in marine conservation policy, write environmental journalism pieces, and travel the worlds oceans.

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