APTOS (KCBS) – For years, scientists have sought an explanation for why squid periodically strand themselves ashore on the beaches of Santa Cruz County as hundreds of jumbo flying squid did recently in Aptos.

One possible explanation may lie in the red tides that figure prominently in the YouTube videos beach combers and fishermen have posted of what looks like a mass Humboldt squid suicide about two weeks ago.

KCBS’ Matt Bigler Reports:

The toxic algae blooms that produce red tides also secrete domoic acid, a neurotoxin that Hanna Rosen, a researcher in the Gilly Lab at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station, suspects may disorient the squid.

“If the squid are ingesting it in high enough quantities, could be affecting their central nervous system,” she said, in other words, drunk on algae.

squid, Santa Cruz

Squid washed up along Privates Beach in Santa Cruz, December 12, 2012. (Keith, Belmont)

Red tides have coincided with the puzzling strandings, although Rosen was quick to caution that definitive proof of this intoxicating theory would require further study.

“So far there’s no direct evidence saying that the squid are even affected by this neurotoxin,” she said.

The December 10 stranding in Aptos was only the most recent one that marine biologists have struggled to understand.

“All along the coast we get reports of these strandings every once in a while and it’s quite a mystery,” Rosen said.

At least a promising theory has started to emerge.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)