California’s beaches are facing an invasion of tiny tuna crabs. Scientists believe that the crabs were swarmed up along the southern California coast, probably trying to mate when strong currents pushed them ashore. The phenomenon is linked to warmer and stronger ocean currents, caused by this season’s El Niño. The same happened around this time last year.
The Scripps Institution of Oceanography UC San Diego states that tuna crabs primarily inhabit the west coast of Baja California, Gulf of California, and the California Current. The changing conditions probably push them further north. “The species is unique in that it can live its entire life cycle in the water column from larvae to adulthood,” Linsey Sala, collection manager for the Pelagic Invertebrates Collection at the institution says. HIgher up the water column, closer to the sea level, they are subject to the winds, tides, and currents.
The crabs will be a welcome feast for birds, which will resolve the situation of the carpeted beaches. Unfortunately, human consumption is not recommended as the crabs may contain unknown toxins, the Scripps institution warns.
The bright salmon-colored creatures resemble small lobsters or crayfish, measuring 2.5-7.5cm in length. They are favourite food for some species of tuna, hence their common name.