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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Jumbo Squid Invade San Diego Shores

Aggressive 5-foot-long jumbo flying squid with razor-sharp beaks and toothy tentacles have invaded the shallow waters off San Diego. The so-called Humboldt squid, which can grow up to 100 pounds, are native to the deep waters off Mexico, where they have been known to attack humans and are nicknamed "red devils" for their rust-red coloring and mean streak.
Video:An earthquake offshore drives an invasion of Humboldt Squid to La Jolla's Shores.

The carnivorous calamari came up from the depths 2nd week July and swarms of them roughed up unsuspecting divers with their tentacles enveloping their masks and yanking at their cameras and gear. The squid are too deep to bother swimmers and surfers, but many longtime divers say they are staying out of the surf until the sea creatures clear out.

Roger Uzun, a veteran scuba diver and amateur underwater videographer, swam with a swarm of the creatures for about 20 minutes and said they appeared more curious than aggressive. The animals taste with their tentacles, he said, and seemed to be touching him and his wet suit to determine if he was edible. In 2005, a similar invasion off San Diego delighted fisherman and, in 2002, thousands of jumbo flying squid washed up on the beaches here. That year, workers removed 12 tons of dead and dying squid.

Swarms off the coast — and the subsequent die-offs — may occur when their prey moves to shallow waters and the squid follow, and then get trapped and confused in the surf. Research suggests the squid may have established a year-round population off California at depths of 300 to 650 feet.


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