A trip to Leadbetter Beach in Santa Barbara looks a lot different right now.
Thousands of tiny crabs are scattered along the shoreline.
Professor Dawn Alexandra Murray said the tiny creatures are pelagic red crabs, an offshore species that typically live farther south, near Mexico.
“When we see them up in our neck of the woods, in Santa Barbara, it’s generally indicative of an El Nino or warmer waters. Our waters, off the coastline here are not extremely warm right now. So they probably got pushed ashore in the last few days in the onshore winds and now they are struggling to survive along the shoreline,” Murray said.
Murray said the red crabs are a vital part of the food chain.
“These crabs are a really important food item for whales, for birds and for fish. Actually, they are sometimes called the tuna crab because tuna love eating them so much,” Murray said. “Grey whales that are migrating along our coast choose to eat these crabs too.”
The red crabs won’t likely appear along the shoreline much longer because the peak of El Nino is over.