Welcome to the “crabocalypse.”

Attention, seafood lovers! Grab your mallets and head on down to sunny Newport Beach, California, where the waterfront is strewn with a “big red blanket” of crabs.

OK, so these critters are too tiny to make for good eatin’, reports the Orange County Register (the source of the above quote). But many people are nevertheless trekking to the crawling, crustaceous tide, according to the paper, taking selfies with the crabs or—and this is kind of sad—desperately trying to toss them into the ocean before they die.

The pelagic red crabs (aka Pleuroncodes planipes) have appeared sporadically throughout the year, washing up in the hundreds of thousands from Huntington Beach to San Diego. The likely culprit is El Niño, which is providing a northern passage of warm water from the species’ typical home in Baja California. The ongoing El Niño might go down as one of the stronger ones in history; some are saying it could push 2015 to becoming the hottest year in known history.

Those who were in Los Angeles in 1998, around the time of another El Niño, might recall another crabby infestation overtaking the beaches. Then, they were so copious that local birds gorging on them became too obese to fly. Wrote the L.A. Times:

In yet another manifestation of El Nino, scores of pudgy brown ducks are gorging themselves on the swarms of tiny red crabs swept north by this season's unusual ocean currents.

The fowl flutter their wings, they scoot hurriedly along the water's surface, they appear to be taking off and . . .

Nothing.

The birds, known as surf scoters, simply can't lift their heavy bodies into the air.

Never fear that today’s birds are also swelling up and becoming slow, delicious meals for sharks and falcons. According to a marine biologist the Times interviewed, they “usually regurgitate what they ate if they're disturbed.”

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. An aerial photo of downtown Miami.
    Life

    The Fastest-Growing U.S. Cities Aren’t What You Think

    Looking at the population and job growth of large cities proper, rather than their metro areas, uncovers some surprises.

  2. Charts

    The Evolution of Urban Planning in 10 Diagrams

    A new exhibit from the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association showcases the simple visualizations of complex ideas that have changed how we live.

  3. a photo of a tiny house in Oregon
    Design

    How Amazon Could Transform the Tiny House Movement

    Could the e-commerce giant help turn small-home living from a niche fad into a national housing solution?

  4. a photo of a BYD-built electric bus.
    Transportation

    A Car-Centric City Makes a Bid for a Better Bus System

    Indianapolis is set to unveil a potentially transformative all-electric bus rapid transit line, along with a host of major public transportation upgrades.

  5. Life

    How Bad Is It to Let Your Cat Outside?

    Your adorable house cat is also a ruthless predator. A conservation biologist makes the case for keeping cats indoors, or at least on leashes.

×