Friday, April 14, 2006

Giant Squid Overrun Northern California!

Scientists are baffled, fisherman are frustrated, no one knows the ultimate impact on our ecosystem. Now, who wants calamari?

(Metro News)

MILLIONS of immigrants from Latin America began streaming north to the California coast years ago. No one knows why they came here. No one knows the impact they will have on the state's economy and the environment. Scientists are on the case, but answers elude them. After all, these aliens do not speak our language and they currently reside miles from shore, more than 100 fathoms down, occasionally rising to the surface when overcome by a feeding frenzy.

Clearly, the giant Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas) is not your ordinary migrant. It's a cephalopod that grows to over 100 pounds, eats voraciously and may possess an intelligence quotient comparable to that of many mammals. Originally named for the Humboldt Current that flows northward along the coast of Chile, the creature's presence in California has baffled local biologists, ecologists and fishermen.

Dr. William Gilly, a professor at Stanford University, has studied the Humboldt squid for about five years, but it was almost three decades ago that he first heard about the animals. In the 1980s he traveled up and down the Baja California peninsula seeking out the squid in the Sea of Cortez, but to no avail. Finally, in 1994, he made contact near Santa Rosalia. He discovered on the beach a bustling squid-processing plant, based on a strong localized fishery which had existed for years. He observed fishermen in the middle of the night beaching their small skiffs and weighing in thousands of kilos of the hefty squid.

"There's also a big fishery off Peru and Chile," says Gilly, "and we've identified them as far as 60 degrees north. They're incredibly temperature tolerant and oxygen tolerant, so why they're only expanding their range now, I don't know. They've been fishing for them off South America since the 1960s, but where they started before that and where they spread from is unclear."

He also cannot explain why the giant squid have not migrated across the Pacific, and Gilly wonders at the fact that Dosidicus gigas has not poked its tentacles around Cape Horn and scooted into the Atlantic Ocean. Other squid, notes Gilly, exist longitudinally across the globe, but the Humboldt squid—and only the Humboldt squid—ranges north to south in a narrow swath of water which features water temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit and as high as 90.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Ian said...

I've heard that those Humbolt squid are vicious motherfuckers too... they'll attack fishermen, and are attracted to lights.

10:59 AM  
Blogger M said...

I know exactly how to defeat them.

12:25 PM  

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