Seen a squid lately?
San Diego beachgoers have seen large, red and white Humboldt squid wash up on the shoreline throughout the last few weeks.
No, the odd-looking invertebrates aren’t invading the coast; they’re simply beaching themselves. But the reason the large-tentacled creatures are here is unknown.
“We don’t actually know why they’re stranding,” said Linsey Sala, the UCSD assistant museum scientist and collection manager for pelagic invertebrates. “We haven’t really nailed down one particular reason why they’re here.”
Sala said the Humboldt squid are historically from Chile, but in recent years have been expanding their range north. Scientists are still trying to figure out why the jumbo squid are coming closer to the coast each year.
Possible reasons for the visiting squid could be that their numbers are increasing. Or the food Humboldt squid hunt could be moving up the Pacific coastline, forcing the invertebrates to follow their prey.
“They are proving to be quite adaptive,” Sala said.
The squid could also be beaching themselves because the red tide is causing them to become ill. If the squid are potentially eating fish and other animals that may have fed on the microalgae which possess toxins in the red tide, they may bioaccumulate the toxins from their food rather than directly from the microalgae.
Scientists are looking into whether or not the bioaccumulation of demoic acid or toxins forming microalgae are a reason that these animals potentially become sick and strand.
But so far, there’s no clear answer as to why the squid are here.
What should people do when the jumbo Humboldts wash up along shore? Leave them to the birds.
“I would suggest leaving them alone,” Sala said.” You don’t know what’s on these animals… they might not be super clean.”