After hundreds of Humboldt squid beached themselves this weekend near Santa Cruz, Calif., onlookers and scientists alike struggled to understand the animals' sudden appearance.
"Twenty washed up right in front of me," one onlooker, Jim Morrison, told KSBW. "It was like they were committing suicide."
According to CBS 5, attempts to save squid by placing them back in the water were futile -- the creatures swam right back onto shore.
Some scientists believe squid may accidentally beach themselves when they migrate to a new area.
As part of their feeding process, which occurs primarily at night, squid surface from the depths to explore shallower areas. While feeding, "they might get trapped ... and not know where to go, so they just keep feeding and foraging and wash up," hypothesized John Field, one of the National Marine Fisheries Service biologists, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
If that is indeed the explanation, it raises plenty of other questions: For instance, what happened to trigger the squids' migration from their original habitat? The Humboldt squid is rarely seen in northern California, but scientists believe global warming may play a factor in driving the squids from their normal, equatorial habitat.
"It's all very interesting stuff, and there are a lot of theories, but the bottom line is no one knows," Baldo Marinovic, a biologist at the Institute of Marine Science at UC Santa Cruz, told the Monterey Herald.
The Santa Cruz incident mirrors a similar mass squid beaching in nearby Monterey Bay last month -- the precise cause of which is also unknown.
Also on HuffPost:
Dogs Over The Bridge
In the past fifty years, 50 to <a href="http://www.cracked.com/article/181_the-6-creepiest-places-earth/" target="_hplink">600</a> dogs have jumped over Scotland’s Overtoun Bridge and plummeted to their deaths. A few years ago, five dogs jumped in under six months. <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-411038/Why-dogs-leapt-deaths-Overtoun-Bridge.html" target="_hplink">The Daily Mail</a> wrote an article featuring reports of horrified pet owners who walked their dog over the bridge, when suddenly the dog would, without warning, leap over the bridge, falling 50 ft to the rocky bottom below. Perhaps even more disturbing, there are <a href="http://www.cracked.com/article/181_the-6-creepiest-places-earth/" target="_hplink">reports</a> of “second timers” – of the few dogs who have survived the fall, some jumped over the same bridge <em>again</em>. Many <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-411038/Why-dogs-leapt-deaths-Overtoun-Bridge.html" target="_hplink">theories</a> have circulated about why dogs react this way to the bridge. Some suggest that the dogs are deliberately committing suicide, perhaps due to depression in their owners or even a supernatural force. More recent research suggests that it may be the scent of minks, an animal known to live under the bridge. Whatever the explanation may be, perhaps dog owners should simply stop walking their dogs over the Overtoun Bridge.
<a href="http://www.livescience.com/strangenews/dead-blackbirds-arkansas-bizarre-animal-deaths-110105.html" target="_hplink">LiveScience</a> reports that in 2005, over 1,000 toads exploded in Germany. An autopsy revealed that birds had eaten their livers, causing the toads to puff up and explode. Perhaps the birds were hired by Hannibal Lecter.
Sheep Suicide March
In a pretty strong argument that sheep really do follow blindly, hundreds of sheep followed each other over a cliff in Turkey in 2005. According to the <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4665511.stm" target="_hplink">BBC</a>, 400 sheep died, but another 1,100 falling sheep survived the pileup due to bodies cushioning their 15-meter fall. The mass “sheep suicide” devastated villagers in the eastern Van province, as families had relied heavily on their sheep for survival.<a href="http://www.usatoday.com/news/offbeat/2005-07-08-sheep-suicide_x.htm" target="_hplink"> USA Today</a> suggests that it was an estimated loss of $100,000. What we want to know is, if all the sheep were following each other blindly, which stupid sheep was leading them all?
Thousands Of Dead Red Devils
In 2005, <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/02/0223_050223_giantsquid.html" target="_hplink">National Geographic</a> reported that thousands of jumbo squid were found beached in California. The death of these “Red Devils” remains a mystery - they may live at depths of over 2,000 feet, so it’s hard to learn much about them. In life <em>or</em> death.
Bird And Fish Bizarreness
In the past few weeks, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/05/hundreds-more-dead-birds-_n_804952.html" target="_hplink">thousands</a> of birds and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/05/dead-birds-fall-from-sky-_n_804591.html" target="_hplink">millions</a> of fish have been found dead across the globe. Mass numbers of dead fish have appeared in Maryland, Arkansas, Brazil, and New Zealand. Meanwhile, a crazy number of dead birds have been found in Arkansas, Louisianna, Kentucky, and Sweden. Theories range from fireworks to the apocalypse. We’re hoping it’s the former.
<a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2010-07-29/world/uganda.anthrax_1_anthrax-hippos-game-meat?_s=PM:WORLD" target="_hplink">300</a> Hippos were found dead in a Ugandan park in 2004. An investigation revealed that the mass death was due to an anthrax outbreak found in their water. More recently, <a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2010-07-29/world/uganda.anthrax_1_anthrax-hippos-game-meat?_s=PM:WORLD" target="_hplink">82</a> hippos died this June from another anthrax outbreak in Uganda.
Thousands Of Flamingos, Penguins, And Pelicans
<a href="http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2040762_2040769_2040787,00.html" target="_hplink">Time Magazine</a> reports that in 2009, birds of many varieties died in mass numbers in Chile. Thousands of flamingos, 1,200 penguins, and about 60 pelicans all were found dead over the course of two months. There has been no proven reason for why all of these birds died, although some theories point to global warming, pollution, overfishing, or the unusually hot weather.
Hundreds Of Beached Whales
One eery Sunday night in 2009, nearly 200 pilot whales stranded themselves on an island between Australia’s mainland and Tasmania, reports the <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7918144.stm" target="_hplink">BBC</a>. A few months earlier, over 150 pilot whales had beached themselves on Tasmania’s west coast. One theory suggests that there may have been a disturbance in echo-location due to nearby humans.
10,000 Wildebeests Pileup
<a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/bigphotos/37881794.html" target="_hplink">National Geographic</a> reports that an estimated 10,000 Wildebeest lay piled up dead along the banks of Kenya last October. The animals all drowned while trying to migrate across the river, resulting in one percent of the ENTIRE species population being lost. We can’t help but wonder… after the first one, two, even 5,000 wildebeest drowned, why did the rest of them still decide to enter the water?
50% Of Earth's Species
Forget mass deaths that happened last year, even last century. This mass animal death really redefines “mass.” 65 million years ago, <a href="http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/images/yucatan.html" target="_hplink">NASA</a> reports that the Chicxulub crater was formed when an asteroid or comet slammed into the earth, wiping out over 50% of the Earth’s species. Dinosaurs didn’t just die in mass, they went extinct. Makes a few thousand bird deaths seem like a drop in the bucket, doesn’t it?
<a href="http://www.livescience.com/strangenews/dead-blackbirds-arkansas-bizarre-animal-deaths-110105.html" target="_hplink">LiveScience</a> reports that a shower of frogs may have fallen to the ground in the early 20th century. The report is based on a book by Charles Fort, who describes the phenomenon as “a shower of frogs which darkened the air and covered the ground for a long distance.” While this event occurred during a rainstorm in Kansas City, Missouri, similar reports popped up in dozens of countries around the world, from Germany to Tahiti. Scientists believe it is possible that strong winds may have carried the light animals short distances, creating the appearance of a frog shower.