Californians plagued with foot-eating ‘mini shark’ bugs

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beach goers in Southern California is being targeted by a swarm of small, aggressive marine insects that love human feet.

The insect, which has earned the nickname ‘mini shark’, has been identified as a waterline isopod (Excirolana chiltoni), a species of crustacean that grows to about 0.3 inches (0.8 centimeters) in length and can form flocks of more than 1,000 individuals, according to Walla Walla University in Washington.

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Close-up view of a waterway isopod (Excirolana chiltoni).

Close-up view of a waterway isopod (Excirolana chiltoni).
(Hakai Institute)

The “mini shark” lives in shallow water from the Pacific Ocean and seasonal migration up and down the coast leaving in their wake beachgoers jumping in pain.

The bug quickly find barefoot waders, and will bite their flesh, drawing blood. Because the animal is so small, the bite is small but painful like a pin prick. Experts recommend rapidly shaking the legs to reduce but not eliminate the number of bites.

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People attacked by the isopods described the bites as “painful” and “shocking,” noting how the insects looked like a group of tiny piranhas attacking their feet and ankles. Those who were attacked noted that the pain faded after 15 to 20 minutes.

Southern California Beach has not issued any warning to swimmers at this time.

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