A Squid Graveyard Lies At The Bottom Of The Gulf Of California

Scavengers, including a deep-sea crab and sea stars, feed on a squid carcass with its black egg sheet at the bottom of the Gulf of California. Credit: MBARI 2012

Off the coast of California, lies a graveyard of dead squid at the bottom of ocean. The dead squid are a result of an exhaustive reproduction cycle of breeding and egg-laying.

In 2012, researchers at the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Research Institute wrote a paper that was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The paper discusses the bizarre occurrence that occurs.

It may seem strange, but the death of the squid is pivotal to their continued reproductive cycle. The researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium used remotely operated submarine dives to study the occurrence. The team found over 60 dead squid in water over 3000 feet deep in the Cerralvo Trough which is a basin near the southern end of the Gulf of California.

Through the submarines, the team also discovered empty squid sheets which is a thin delicate membrane created by female squid to carry their thousands of offspring. This finding led the researchers to believe that all of the dead squid are females that were smothered by their own egg sheets.

The size of the sheets are so large that as they are created, the squid have no chance of surviving as the sheets smother them and carry them to the bottom of the sea. Almost immediately, scavengers including ratfish, worms, brittle stars and crustaceans gather to feast on the dead squid. The scavengers leave the egg sheets undisturbed, allowing for the egg on the sheet to hatch and the squid to survive.

The cycle of life and death allow for the different zones of the water to be regulated naturally. The squid eat food in the midwater zone, eventually die and sink to the seafloor.

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