Every few years, a red carpet rolls out in Southern California. But instead of gracing a Hollywood premier, this less-than-walkable rug unfurls on the beach—and it’s made of tiny crustaceans.
Called pelagic red crabs, the animals look like small lobsters or crawfish and measure one to three inches long. And they’re not even true crabs—rather, these crustaceans are a species of squat lobster that normally live off Baja California.
Pelagic red crabs are not strong swimmers, so they migrate by drifting with the tide, winds, and currents. During warming events when southern waters move poleward, especially those related to El Niño, countless crustaceans ride currents up to southern and central California.
But upon getting to these northerly locales,