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“Mini-Sharks” Attack Beachgoers In So Cal!

Swimmers in Southern California are reporting that their feet are being bitten by “mini-sharks”.
These tiny isopods (Excirolana chiltoni) have been nicknamed “mini-sharks”. They grow to be around 0.3 inches in length, and often form swarms of about 1,000 members. They live in shallow water and are known to migrate up and down the Pacific Coast.

Mini-sharks are meat eaters, and they seem to be attracted to the feet of swimmers.
One person reported that she was swimming in Mission Bay when one of these isopods bit her.
“I had blood all over my foot and in between my toes,” she said. “It was like small piranhas had bit me.” She later added that once she rinsed her feet off with water, the pain went away after 15 to 20 minutes.
While the bites of these mini-sharks can be painful and may even draw blood, scientists say they are mostly harmless. They are not known to carry any diseases.
These isopods can be found in our waters year-round, but they are not always in an attack mode. Scientists do not know what causes an uptick in attacks, or why they suddenly appear out of nowhere.

Ryan Hechinger, a parasite ecologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, in San Diego, says that he has been bitten by these isopods several times. He said, “My recommendation is to not freak out. If bitten, simply get out of the water and remove the isopods if they are still latched on. It is possible to make the isopods scatter by moving around, but the only way to guarantee you won’t be bitten is to stay out of the water.”