Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thousands of Octupuses Dead, Zero Answers

A great example of buried news, from earlier in January:

What is killing the octopus of Vila Nova de Gaia? That question has obsessed the Portuguese city — located just across the Douro River from Porto — since Jan. 2, when 1,100 lb. (500 kg) of dead octopus were found on a 1.8-mile (3 km) stretch of local beach. The following day, another 110 lb. (50 kg) appeared; later there was just one expired creature. "It's very strange that so many should be killed, and in such a confined area," says Nuno Oliveira, director of the Gaia Biological Park, a nature refuge on the outskirts of Vila Nova de Gaia. "There's nothing in the scientific literature for this kind of mass mortality among octopus."

Twelve hundred pounds is a lot of dead cephalopod, especially when no one seems to know for sure what killed them. Local biologists have ruled out pollution or contamination because no other species were affected. And although some suggest that perhaps a boat, illegally fishing the multilegged creatures, threw them overboard in a panicked attempt to avoid detection, that possibility also seems unlikely. "The sea has been very rough," says Oliveira. "No one has been out fishing for days."

Watch a BBC video of the incident here.
Read more at Time Magazine here.