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A beachgoer passed by a jumbo squid that washed ashore on Newport Beach, Calif., on Wednesday.
A beachgoer passed by a jumbo squid that washed ashore on Newport Beach, Calif., on Wednesday. (Getty Images Photo)

Jumbo squid run aground in Calif.; scientists stumped

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- More than 1,500 jumbo squid -- common to South America -- have washed onto Orange County beaches over the last few days, leaving marine specialists perplexed as to why so many of these torpedo-shaped mollusks have traveled so far north.

"We've known that there's something peculiar going on with those species," said John McGowan, professor emeritus at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego and one of the leading oceanographers on the West Coast.

Dotting Crystal Cove State Park beach up to Newport Beach, the creatures with their elongated, gooey-looking tentacles and oversized heads have caught beachgoers off-guard, said Eric Bauer, Newport Beach lifeguard captain.

"They look like a miniature sea monster, something you'd see out of a Jules Verne novel," he said.

Unlike their smaller cousin -- known to most people as calamari -- the beached and mostly juvenile pink and black creatures are about 3 feet long and 5 to 15 pounds.

The Dosidicus gigas, also known as the Humboldt squid, are not recommended eating. Adults can grow to 6 feet long and weigh as much as 100 pounds.

The creatures are typically found off Peru and elsewhere in South America, but in recent years they have been turning up in larger numbers in the Gulf of California, Oregon, and Alaska.

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