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Are We In the Midst of a Squid Invasion?
It seems everywhere we turn we are hearing about squid. First we receive the news that an elusive giant squid – a 600 pound monster of the deep – was captured on film for the very first time. Now there are reports from California that large Humboldt squid are gathering in such great numbers that they are, in the words of one man, “attacking the boat.”
So, what is going on behind all these shy creatures suddenly making the news?
One could actually say it’s not so sudden if you consider the giant squid – dubbed the Kraken – is believed to be the stuff of old sailor’s legends when they spoke of sea monsters. A sighting of the giant creature, which start at 26 feet long and have been known to grow larger, would surely have struck fear in sailors’ minds, especially since these giants are creatures that prefer the deep waters.
The recent film footage of the 600-pound squid captured swimming in its natural habitat – some 2,066 feet down – occurred off in the Northeast Pacific near Japan. It took an incredible 400 hours of submersible diving before it was lured in for its close up by bait squid. More on this incredible beast, its life, and the mesmerizing footage will be covered in a Discovery Channel Curiosity special called Monster Squid: The Giant is Real airing Sunday, January 27 at 8/7c.
The giant squid still seems to prefer the deep waters of the Pacific, so we are saved from their chitin-teeth-laden tentacles for now. But what’s the story with the thousands of large squid teeming off the coast of Southern California? Have they decided to punish us for their cousins who have been turned into fried calamari?
It does have to do with food, but it isn’t ink-laden retribution. About one week ago fishermen started observing red blobs off the coast from San Clemente to Laguna Beach, California. After sticking their fishing poles in the water something happened. The Orange County Register reported an eyewitness account:
"It was phenomenal," said Rob Arms, a deckhand aboard the boat. "They completely erupted around the boat. They were jumping all over the place. It was really cool."
Another boat also encountered what seemed like an “other-worldly event”: "The squid attacked the boat," he said. "For 45 minutes it was like mayhem. If you dipped your line, you had a squid. You could see them all around the boat. They were glowing all around. It was like aliens."
What would cause these 20-pound red-hued, normally shy Humboldt squid to come so close to shore – and literally jump on a fisherman’s line? Yep. They’re hungry. Experts believe the invasion is in response to tidal flows bringing the squid’s favorite food – tiny shrimp-like krill – close to shore and near the surface. The large amount of krill in one area is simply too tempting for the squid, even bringing them up from their normally deeper environment.
As the krill come up in the warmer waters of the tidal flows to feed on phytoplankton near the surface and to reproduce, so come the squid.
The Orange County Register reported that in one weekend alone some 1,500 squid were caught. One could say, “You don’t see that every day,” and you’d be partially correct. This recent onslaught of squid is truly unusual, though not unheard of. A similar event occurred in 2011.
Around the Discovery Retreats offices we had to ask ourselves – what’s happening here? Why are these squid – the giant Kraken and its cousin the Humboldt – coming out of hiding to chase food? What’s the connection?
The connection could very well be a long tail story – if you’ll pardon the pun. If the squid’s food is changing its behavior and moving into different waters to pursue its own food needs, the entire chain is affected. If ocean currents, temperatures and other conditions are being shifted by global climate changes, it could very well mean that we won’t feel under attack by these shy sea monsters coming out of hiding. Mass squid sightings could very well become a more common event.
Tune in to Discovery Channel’s Curiosity special Monster Squid: The Giant is Real airing Sunday, January 27 at 8/7c to get insight into the elusive giant squid and watch this space – if we hear more about the squid stopping by the California coast we’ll let you know.
Can You Tell Fact From Fiction? Take The Giant Squid Quiz
Learn more about the developing story at the following links:
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