Extreme plasticity in life-history strategy allows a migratory predator (jumbo squid) to cope with a changing climate



Dosidicus gigas (jumbo or Humboldt squid) is a semelparous, major predator of the eastern Pacific that is ecologically and commercially important. In the Gulf of California, these animals mature at large size (>55 cm mantle length) in 1–1.5 years and have supported a major commercial fishery in the Guaymas Basin during the last 20 years. An El Niño event in 2009–2010, was accompanied by a collapse of this fishery, and squid in the region showed major changes in the distribution and life-history strategy. Large squid abandoned seasonal coastal-shelf habitats in 2010 and instead were found in the Salsipuedes Basin to the north, an area buffered from the effects of El Niño by tidal upwelling and a well-mixed water column. The commercial fishery also relocated to this region. Although large squid were not found in the Guaymas Basin from 2010 to 2012, small squid were abundant and matured at an unusually small mantle-length (<30 cm) and young age (approximately 6 months). Juvenile squid thus appeared to respond to El Niño with an alternative life-history trajectory in which gigantism and high fecundity in normally productive coastal-shelf habitats were traded for accelerated reproduction at small size in an offshore environment. Both small and large mature squid, were present in the Salsipuedes Basin during 2011, indicating that both life- history strategies can coexist. Hydro-acoustic data, reveal that squid biomass in this study area nearly doubled between 2010 and 2011, primarily due to a large increase in small squid that were not susceptible to the fishery. Such a climate-driven switch in size-at-maturity may allow D. gigas to rapidly adapt to and cope with El Niño. This ability is likely to be an important factor in conjunction with longerterm climate-change and the potential ecological impacts of this invasive predator on marine ecosystems.