For three consecutive nights, troves of octopuses have been seen walking out of the sea and stranding themselves along several beaches in Wales. Experts say the unusual behaviour may have something to do with recent storms that swept through the region.
One by one they came ashore, stranding themselves along beaches in Cardigan Bay. It happened again the following day, and then yet again for a third straight night.
“It was a bit like an end of days scenario,” Brett Stone, who runs a dolphin tour in the region, explained to the BBC. “There were probably about 20 or 25 on the beach. I have never seen them out of the water like that.”
This species of curled octopus, which can grow up to 20 inches (50 cm) in length, don’t usually make it a habit of coming on land, instead preferring waters up to 325 feet (100 meters) deep. Their numbers have gone up recently due to declining cod populations, but they’re still vulnerable to dolphins.
Many of the octopuses were found in the intertidal zone, the area of the beach where the tide comes in and out. Speaking to The Telegraph, National Marine Aquarium curator James Wright said this behaviour is “not common” and that there’s “something wrong with them.”
Because the area was hit by two recent storm systems—the remnants of Ophelia and Brian—Wright suspects a link. “It could simply be injuries sustained by the rough weather itself or there could be a sensitivity to a change in atmospheric pressure,” he told The Telegraph.
Stones says it’s also possible that they’re getting confused by the bright lights in New Quay harbour, or that they’re simply dying off now that summer has come to an end. Still, it’s weird that they’ve only started to do this now.
“We have got lobster pots and sometimes octopus will strip the bait, but they are very sneaky,” Stones told the BBC. “It is really rare to see them.”
Stones and several other beachgoers tried to collect some of the washed-up octopuses and return them to the sea, but many of them were found dead. Hopefully the octopuses will get re-oriented soon and put a stop to their invasion of Welsh beaches. [Telegraph, BBC]