Thousands of tiny red crabs are blanketing the beaches in Orange County, California, creating an amazing spectacle for beach walkers, surfers and swimmers.

Lifeguards estimate that hundreds of thousands of the tiny crustaceans washed up Friday, May 13th, on beaches in Newport Beach, and many others were spotted in Laguna Beach.

Mindy Schauer, AP via USAToday

The little creatures that die once they've been beached unless the tide brings them back out, have been mystifying locals and frightening beachgoers.

Donna Kalez, general manager of Dana Wharf Sportfishing, told the Orange County Register that her boat captains had been seeing them in the ocean for a while and knew it was only a matter of time before they began to wash up onshore.

"I think it's kind of cool," she told the paper. "It's a phenomenon you won't see for a long time. It's sad they're going to die, but there's nothing you can do."

Los Angeles Times

Marine experts have speculated that warmer ocean temperatures could be causing the crabs to wash ashore more frequently.

The Orange County Register reports that pelagic red crabs are usually found off Baja California, but currents that are part of the El Nino weather pattern are sweeping them north.

The 1- to 3-inch-long crabs have washed up for several years along the Orange County coastline, but before that, they hadn't been seen in this area for decades.

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