Thousands of jumbo squid have purposely beached themselves in Monterey Bay located in central California in an apparent “mass suicide” and now researchers think they may know why. Mass jumbo squid have flung themselves ashore many times in the past decades but until know, scientists have not known why. Now researchers at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, Calif. think the so-called “red tides” may be the culprit. In a “red tide” algae bloom and release an extremely potent brain toxin which may disorient the animals.
“For some reason they just start swimming for the beach. They’ll asphyxiate because they’re out of the water too long. People have tried to throw them back in the water, and a lot of times the squid will just head right back for the beach.”
Before this theory was put forth, scientists thought the squids were just stupid. Seriously. Since the squid that swim ashore are typically juveniles, they thought that maybe they simply got lost and didn’t realize they were out of the water until it was too late. The clue that pointed them towards red tide as the culprit was discovered when one researcher noted that the squid tend to swim ashore on a cyclical basis, every three weeks – the same cycle as the appearance of red tides.
“While past researchers have only found trace levels of the toxic red-tide chemical in stranded squid, low doses of domoic could essentially be making the squid drunk. Combined with navigating unfamiliar waters, that could cause the mass die-offs. They could be tipped over the edge by something like domoic acid that might cloud their judgment.”