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Close-up of one of the specimens at La Carihuela. SUR
Thousands of harmless, glass-like sea creatures wash up on Costa del Sol beach - but what are they and why are they here?
Environment

Thousands of harmless, glass-like sea creatures wash up on Costa del Sol beach - but what are they and why are they here?

Juan Antonio López, from the Fundación Aula del Mar Mediterráneo, said that the appearance of the animals is linked to climate change and the unusual temperatures this winter

José Rodríguez Cámara

Torremolinos

Sunday, 7 January 2024, 21:02

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It seemed to Sergio Cabezas, of the Playa Juan beach bar in La Carihuela, that there were tens of thousands of glass-like creatures on the shore in Torremolinos. And he was not mistaken as these zooplankton - commonly called salps - occupied an almost kilometre-long stretch of the coastline that ran from his business in Calle Mar to the Castillo de Santa Clara apartments. Cabezas said they “looked like glass”.

There is a scientific explanation for what happened, and which relates to the unusual winter temperatures that the Costa del Sol is once again experiencing, as Juan Antonio López, president of the Aula del Mar Mediterranean Foundation, explained.

"In the last ten years, we have observed the appearance of salps at times that have to do with the proliferation of phytoplankton, on which they feed, and, since they are a species with sexual and asexual reproduction, through cloning, their presence can become very huge," López said.

"As the sea is at a higher temperature, marine microalgae grow more easily and, in turn, the same happens with this type of animal that feeds on them," López added. As a result of greater access to food, other marine animals, such as dolphins, come closer to the coast than normal during these previously colder periods. Dozens of these mammals were recently sighted at Playamar in Torremolinos.

López explained that the salps’ breeding seasons have changed, for the 200 species that exist off the Costa del Sol, both due to the greater ease of feeding, as well as the lack of marine storms, which used to be common at this time of year. The salps, which have a gelatinous body that can reach up to five centimetres in length, play an important role as a carbon dioxide sink. They are not harmful to humans, although it is better not to eat them, as they may have consumed toxic phytoplankton.

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