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Friday, July 17, 2009

California scuba divers encounter Humbolt squid

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the oceans.....

Frightening news - or maybe not depending on your fear threshold - for scuba divers off the coast of California after it emerged some had been 'attacked' by giant Humbolt squid which have moved into the area.

Divers have reported unnerving encounters with the carnivorous cephalopods, whicharrived in the area about a week.

Diver Shanda Magill told the Associated Press news agency how a squid ripped at her BCD and light, and grabbed her with its tentacles.

She said: "I just kicked like crazy. The first thing you think of is: 'Oh my gosh, I don't know if I'm going to survive this.' If that squid wanted to hurt me, it would have."

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.

Monty Halls dived with the Humbolt for an episode of his TV show Great Ocean Adventures (I'll watch it tonight to remind myself how he found it).

The squid are more commonly found in the deep waters off Mexico, where they have been known to attack humans and are nicknamed "red devils" for their rust-red colouring and aggressive streak.

They hunt in schools of up to 1,200 and the population is believed to have exploded because of human hunting which all but eradicated their natural predators.

Scientists are not sure why the squid have started appearing in the water off the Southern California coast and say they are concerned.

One theory is that their prey has moved to shallow waters due to changes in sea temperatures and the squid have followed. One biologist estimated there could be hundreds, or possibly thousands.

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