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Masses of small red tuna crabs have been washing up along San Diego, California area beaches from Ocean Beach to La Jolla. The species, Pleuroncodes planipes, is unique in that it can live its entire life cycle, from larva to adulthood, in the water column from surface to seafloor. Accordingly, it can be particularly vulnerable to being carried along by winds, tides, and currents.
Local media sources report that the red tuna crabs have been washing up on the San Diego area beaches for the past couple of weeks. Scientists have opined that the red tuna crabs may have been carried from their usual habitats by warm water currents and may actually hold key information about changing weather patterns.
According to San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, such strandings take place periodically and are not necessarily a threat to the species. Scripps also noted that the invasion of the red tuna crabs is definitely a warm-water indicator but that it was unclear if it’s directly related to El Nino or other oceanographic conditions.
Scripps has cautioned people not to eat the crabs because the creatures may have ingested toxin-producing phytoplankton.