A Halloween Tale: Beware the Excirolana kincaidi!
Posted by Jody on October 31, 2012
The Creepy Crawlies of Whaleshead Beach, Oregon
You may have noticed that when our family travels, we frequently photograph beach signs. We actually read them, too! Other beach goers will often pass us by as we stand there at the sandy entrance, perusing the notice packed signboards. Our guess is that a rather large percentage of people don’t pay much attention to these particular seaside information centers.
When Greg and I headed down the path to Whaleshead Beach, we couldn’t wait to see the view unfold. There it was: a magnificent rock jutting from the sun-drenched sea, looking just like a colossal breaching whale. It was a gorgeous sight!
Then we saw it: An 8 ½ x 11” piece of paper encased in plastic, attached to the official wooden signboard, that sent chills up our spines. Excirolana kincaidi ?!
“These isopods alternately bury themselves in the sand and actively forage for dead animal matter. They seem to be especially active in the shallow swash of retreating waves on sandy beaches. Large numbers may quickly congregate around an animal carcass that washes in on a sandy beach while it is still in the water, and quickly strip the carcass of flesh. This is the most common Excirolana species along the Washington coast. Predators include sanderlings.”
Greg found the original of this posting at a Wallawalla.edu. There you’ll see much more information and additional technical specifics about these little flesh eaters of the Pacific Northwest sands, including pictures far more frightening than this one. The section that is highlighted in yellow on the sign is prominent in the university’s write up:
“Note: Very few crustaceans will actually bite you but this nasty little creature is definitely one of them. Barefoot waders in an area with Excirolana will find that the animals quickly swim toward and swarm over bare feet, biting them so hard that blood will be flowing within moments. Since the animals are so small the bites are tiny but painful like a pin prick, and the animals are often present in swarms of thousands. Rapidly shuffling the feet reduces but does not eliminate the number of bites.”
Although they seem a useful creature in keeping the beaches clean and sanitary (nature provides for all things), there seems to also be an undesirable side effect to having them around. This note certainly killed any idea we had of heading to the water’s edge, even on the most beautiful, toasty October day!
Wouldn’t these little beasts be perfect for an Alfred Hitchcock movie? Move over, birds!
*A tag-team post by Greg and Jody*