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Beach goers in Southern California are being targeted by swarms of tiny, aggressive sea bugs who have an appetite for human feet. 

The bugs, who have earned the nickname ‘mini shark’, have been identified as water-line isopods (Excirolana chiltoni), a crustacean species that grows to be around 0.3 inches (0.8 centimeters) long and can form swarms of more than 1,000 individuals, according to Walla Walla University in Washington. 

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A close-up of a water-line isopods (Excirolana chiltoni).
(Hakai Institute)

The “mini-sharks” live in the shallow waters of the Pacific Ocean and seasonally migrate up and down the coast leaving in their wake beach goers hopping in pain.

The bugs quickly find barefoot waders, and will bite into their flesh, drawing blood. Since the animals are so small the bites are tiny but painful like a pin prick. Experts recommend rapidly shuffling the feet reduces but does not eliminate the number of bites.

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People attacked by the isopods describe the bite as being “painful” and “surprising,” noting how the bugs looked like a group of tiny piranhas had attacked their feet and ankles. Those attacked noted that the pain faded after 15 to 20 minutes.

Southern California beaches have not issued any warning to swimmers at this point.

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