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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Mystery of Mass Squid 'Suicides' Possibly Solved

Humboldt Squid
CREDIT: mikeledray | Shutterstock.com
Mystery of Mass Squid 'Suicides' Possibly Solved
Dec 15, 2012 | Tia Ghose | Live Science

Thousands of jumbo squid have beached themselves on central California shores this week, committing mass "suicide." But despite decades of study into the phenomenon in which the squid essentially fling themselves onto shore, the cause of these mass beachings have been a mystery.

But a few intriguing clues suggest poisonous algae that form so-called red tides may be intoxicating the Humboldt squid and causing the disoriented animals to swim ashore in Monterey Bay, said William Gilly, a marine biologist at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, Calif.

Each of the strandings has corresponded to a red tide, in which algae bloom and release an extremely potent brain toxin, Gilly said. This fall, the red tides have occurred every three weeks, around the same time as the squid beachings, he said. (The squid have been stranding in large numbers for years, with no known cause.)

"It's not exactly a smoking gun, but it's pretty circumstantial evidence that there is some link," Gilly told LiveScience. [See Photos of the Stranded Humboldt Squid]

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