A tsunami’s worth of sea creatures
289 species came to U.S. on drifting debris from Japan
They’re a long way from home.
Nearly 300 species of fish, mussels, crabs and various other sea creatures drifted from the shores of Japan to the Pacific coast of the United States on debris sent across the ocean by a tsunami in 2011.
“When we first saw species from Japan arriving in Oregon, we were shocked,” John Chapman from Oregon State University told BBC News. “We never thought they could live that long, under such harsh conditions.”
Chapman co-wrote a study published Thursday in the journal Science that explored the sea critters’ journey from Japan to the U.S. after the Tohoku earthquake triggered the tsunami. These catastrophic events sent debris, such as docks and coolers, drifting across the ocean.
People began noticing these objects washing ashore five years ago. In 2012, for example, a 66-foot-long dock washed up on Oregon’s Agate Beach, and it was covered in small sea creatures, the Oregonian reported.
Now, 289 species have been identified in the study.
“It’s a bit of what we call ecological roulette,” lead author James Carlton, a marine sciences professor at Williams College, told The Associated Press.
“We have created a new ecological process, the process of mega-rafting,” Steven L. Chown, a professor of biology at Monash University in Australia, who was not involved in the report, told the New York Times. “The development of materials that can float for ages, and the rising levels of seas due to climate change, make the possibility of these events larger and larger.”
These sea slugs came from a derelict vessel that washed up in Oregon after the 2011 Japanese tsunami.