“What will they eat next?” — there’s a question guaranteed to keep you reading to the end of “Diving into Squid Territory,” an interview with scientist Bruce Robison in the LA Times.
He explains that the giant squid invasion off the coast of Southern California is a byproduct of ocean warming and the elimination through fishing of 90% of the big fishes that used to compete with squid for food and eat baby squid. These changes have contributed to the growing population of Humboldt squid and their expanding home range.
What are the consequences of this movement?
They have a new impact. For example, a type of fish called hake has plummeted in population. Hake are an important commercial species off the West Coast.
From examining stomach contents, we know the squid are eating the hake. The hake population tanked, and it looks like it is going to stay that way. So the question becomes, what will the squid eat next?
Not us, happily (or disappointingly, if you were counting on a gruesome turn to this story.) Robison says there are “no legitimate stories of any humans being damaged.”
Asked how long squid live, Robison gives an answer appropriate to the Southern California lifestyle: “A full-grown Humboldt squid lives two years, max. Lives fast, dies young.”
Even better, he explains the species’ science fictional appeal:
They’re big and they’re fast and they can change color. They can create patterns on their bodies. They can make circles, spots, stripes.
The Humboldt squid are real masters at signaling back and forth this way. They are constantly talking to each other using displays of colors and patterns on their bodies.
We know that’s what they are doing, but what we don’t know is what it means. It is an alien communication that we’d love to understand.
Earth’s homegrown aliens — no wonder fans feel an affinity for this tentacled predator.