South Island beaches turn red

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South Island beaches in New Zealand are turning red due to millions of dead squat lobsters.

Over the last week there have been a number of mass strandings of the small sea creature which has turned the beaches the colour red.

The red tinge on the beach is caused by the bodies of munida gregaria – squat lobsters.  

The small crustaceans cling to the sand at high tide – an behaviour for breeding – and then perish when the tide drops..

Over the years patches of dead squat lobster 20-30cm thick have landed on some southern beaches.

The strandings occur when adult squat lobster refuse to give up their breeding grounds on the seafloor.

This leaves millions of teenage squat lobster with nowhere to breed. The strong instinct to settle and “cling” to surfaces leads to their death.

Although people are sometimes alarmed by the vivid red of the dying animals, an expert has said that said the dead represented a “tiny” fraction of the overall population.

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