Two tiny crustaceans whose burrows in the sand were once familiar sights to beachgoers are on their way to being extirpated from Southern California, according to a new study.
Scientists at UC Santa Barbara found that two species closely related to the roly poly have vanished from more than 60% of beaches from Point Conception to the U.S.-Mexico border, where they were recorded a century ago.
“We were really surprised at how strong the pattern of loss is,” said Jenny Dugan, a biologist at the university’s Marine Science Institute.
The trend is alarming, the researchers said, because the critters are considered indicator species whose steady decline over decades bodes ill for other creatures such as grunions and snowy plovers, which also need wide stretches of undisturbed sand to survive.
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