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Squid mystery in Mexican waters unraveled by Stanford biologist and a class of students
Date:11/17/2011

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Humboldt squid only live 12 to 18 months, so memories of other feeding grounds probably fade fairly quickly when the squid relocate, especially if they are only living to be 6 months old. But Gilly suspects that with each new generation, more squid may rediscover the rich lantern fish feeding grounds of their forebears and the average squid will grow a little larger.

Whether the descendants of the squids that moved north will stay in the Midriff Islands and create a new, stable squid fishery remains to be seen as of this October, they were still there. The food brought up by the tidal upwelling is mostly krill, tiny shrimp-like creatures that are a lot smaller and probably less nutritious than lantern fish, so it takes a lot more krill to help a Humboldt squid fatten up to its full potential. It may be that a revival of the lantern fish as a food source will eventually lure most of the squid back down south, with the whole squid diaspora reunited.

Gilly credits the undergraduate students in the holistic biology class with recognizing that the changes in the size and distribution of the squid population along with different stomach contents in the squid they sampled were the result of an El Nio year. That was unexpected, because the usual changes that come with an El Nio had not been seen along the California coast that winter. But the phenomenon that year was centered more toward the western Pacific than normal and thus did not extend as far north.

"The students really got it right, which is very cool for undergraduates to put that together," he said. "They convinced me that all the strange observations on squid were due to the fact that it was an El Nio year."

During 2011, commercial squid fishing in the Sea of Cortez has been slowly picking up, but fishermen are still struggling, because with smaller squid, it takes a lot more effort to catch the same mass of saleable squid as in previous years.

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Contact: Louis Bergeron
louisb3@stanford.edu
650-725-1944
Stanford University
Source:Eurekalert  

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