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.
BEFORE YOU GO
PHOTOS of other bizarre mass animal deaths: