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Unusual conditions cover beach with shells

Florida, USA
A RARE combination of sea and weather conditions washed up shellfish along Siesta Key area shorelines in recent days, leaving a thick band of sea life on the sand. Scientists at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute say it is an UNCOMMON but natural occurrence. They speculate that the deep, cold water - about 9 degrees cooler - surged into shallower areas, incapacitating shellfish. Then, heavy winds that accompanied a recent cold front pushed them to shore. "What the cold water may do is stun them so they can't really hold their position as well. Then they're more exposed. On top of that you get this wind wave event, and that's what tends to push them all the way up on the beach." An upwelling of deep water in the Gulf can be caused by several things, including changes in atmospheric pressure, winds or the movement of the bobby pin-shaped Loop Current that sits off the coast. Similar concentrations of washed-up shells are being reported on Sanibel Island near Fort Myers. Researchers will continue to look into the UNUSUAL concentration of shellfish to better understand what happened. "We're still trying to get a handle on this event." While it was a natural occurrence, it could still disrupt the community of sea life in the Gulf.

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