Laura Twohig sent us a couple of pictures of “tuna crabs” from the sands at Lovers Pt. Today in Pacific Grove we experienced an “invasion” of Tuna crabs, which are so named because they are often found in the bellies of tuna. Pleuroncodes planipes is a bright red critter which occasionally floats in the thousands onto area beaches and die there, leaving a red, smelly carpet. It seems to depend on warm currents, particularly in El Niño years, to bring it from Southern California to our shores.
Last time they visited in numbers like today was October, 2015.
It is around five inches long.It resembles a lobster, but has a shorter abdomen. Hence one of its other common names: Squat Lobster. While edible by humans, there’s not enough meat to make it worth the trouble. But then again, the French love winkels… It’s probably not a good idea to eat a dead one from the beach because you don’t know how long it has been there.
From Wikipedia: “Pleuroncodes planipes usually feeds on protists and zoo- plankton, but will feed by filtering blooms of diatoms…P. planipes is accordingly an important food item for many species of birds, marine mammals and fish… Other fish known to feed on P. planipes include billfishes, yellowtail amberjack, sharks and Epinephelus analogus. The diets of gray whales, Bryde’s whales, blue whales and sea otters all include P. planipes. The Mexican endemic bat Myotis vivesi also feeds on P. planipes at some times of the year…The stomachs of some loggerhead sea turtles have been observed to contain only P. planipes. Since P. planipes may be washed ashore in large numbers, it can be a valuable addition to the diets of seabirds such as the herring gull, whose food supply is usually diminished in El Niño years.”
Just when we were trying to scare away the gulls, here comes dinner.