National Geographic : 2010 Aug
PHOTO: KYLER ABERNATHY, REMOTE IMAGING, AND SIMON BOYCE, DANGEROUS ENCOUNTERS WITH BRADY BARR. NGM MAPS SOURCES: ASHLEY BOOTH AND WILLIAM F. GILLY, STANFORD UNIVERSITY OCEANS Squid on the Fly The millions of Humboldt squid, aka jumbo flying squid, live "fast and furious" lives, says NOAA Fisheries oceanographer Ken Baltz. "They hunt and eat and hunt and eat" for a year or two, then expire. Their diet is mainly fish, an occasional floating seabird---and sometimes each other. Once in a great while they "fly" by ejecting themselves from the water. Given that a squid's body plus tentacles can run six feet and top the scales at 80 pounds, that's quite a feat. Flight might be a way to evade predators, although scientists don't know exactly why squids soar. Nor do they understand why the squid can quickly change from red to pink to maroon: maybe to confuse prey, maybe to signal each other. Now this warm-water denizen is in the news because of an unex- pected incursion into the northern Pacific. Its big appetite will surely affect the ecosystem. If salmon are also on the menu, adds William Gilly, a biologist at Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University, Northwest fisheries will suffer. But he doesn't buy reports of sum- mer 2009 attacks on San Diego scuba divers. A squid might nudge with a toothed appendage to assess edibility, he says. "They're smart and curious and really tactile. " Anyone in a wet suit would be deemed unfit for cephalopod consumption. ---Marc Silver 0mi 2,000 0km SCALE AT THE EQUATOR 2,000 1984 2001 2005 Humboldt squid range PACIFIC OCEAN Gulf of California EQUATOR NORTH AMERICA SOUTH AMERICA Warming oceans could be causing this ace predator, which thrives in tropical waters, to head as far north as Alaska. Wearing a Crittercam that later detached, a Humboldt squid, 140 feet down in the Gulf of California, films its cohorts. Watch Dangerous Encounters: Cannibal Squid, airing July 30 at 9 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel.