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Tiny crab species invades Southern California shores

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POSTED February 22, 2015 6:36 p.m.

NEWPORT BEACH ( AP) — Thousands of tiny crabs rarely seen north of Mexico washed ashore with the high tide in Southern California.

The Orange County Register says the pelagic red crabs showed up Saturday on Balboa Island in Newport Beach south of Los Angeles.

The species of crab look like tiny lobsters and they were last seen in the area during an especially high — or “king” — tide about a month ago. Before then, experts say the crab hadn’t been seen this far north in decades. The experts say the persistently warm ocean waters off the Southern California coast may explain why the crabs are drifting north. Water temperatures are in the 60-degree range.

Since last year, warm waters also have brought other creatures to Southern California, including sperm whales and hammerhead sharks. Other strange sightings include glow-in-the-dark organisms called a pyrosomes that washed ashore in September and blue, jellyfish-like creatures known as “By-the-wind sailors.”

“You don’t realize how much sea life is out there until you see something like this,” said James Gutierrez, visiting from inland Pomona.

Passers-by stopped to marvel at the unusual sight, some people coming to the aid of the ones that still looked like they had some life to them.

“We try to throw back as many live ones as we can ... We try and look for the bright red ones to throw them back in the water,” said Balboa Island resident Brian Cummings, walking the beach with his 9-year-old son Chandler. Cummings then picked one up and tossed it into the water, where it simply floated upside down.

Daniel Stringer, who’s lived on Balboa Island for 47 years, says he’s never seen the little crabs but he knows what to do with them: barbecue them with butter.

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