Why rare violet sea snails are washing up on beaches in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly

The colourful creatures are normally found close to the equator Credit: Scilly Rockpool Safaris/ Samaya Reid

Dozens of rare violet sea snails have been washing up on beaches in the Isles of Scilly and Cornwall.

As many as 60 of the creatures have been spotted in what has been described as 'unprecedented numbers', despite normally being found in tropical waters.

Lucy McRobert from the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust said: "Like so many of the weirdly wonderful creatures that wash up on our shores, violet sea snails are both mesmerisingly beautiful and completely alien to us."

The violet snails are unique as they build a ‘bubble raft’ out of thick mucus allowing them to float around the sea. They grow to between 2cm and 4cm - around the same size as a 1p coin or an Oreo cookie.

The snails create a ‘bubble raft’ which enables them to float around the oceans and bump into food Credit: Scilly Rockpool Safaris/Samaya Reid

Beachgoers have found them on Town Beach on St Mary’s, a couple at Watermill and some on the beaches around Tresco and St Martin’s.

Lucy added: "The most eagle-eyed beachcombers might find one or two some years, but it’s unusual to see so many and experts think that they may have first stranded a few days ago."

It comes as other unusual marine wildlife has been found in the areas, including by-the-wind sailors and Portuguese man o’war, both species that the violet sea snails eat.

Scott Reid from Scilly Rockpool Safaris first spotted one of these rare snails on Friday 8 July. He said it is not the only time he has found them in the area but the numbers this year are very unusual.

Although it is hard to establish exactly why they have been turning up in such large quantities, he said it was likely a combination of sea conditions such as ocean currents, wind direction and sea temperatures.

Lucy McRobert told ITV News: "There could be lots of reasons, although there are suggestive links to climate change and shifting sea currents.

More and more beach-combers are spotting the tropical snails even as far as the Orkney Islands Credit: Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust

"The sightings aren’t unique, and we must be careful not to jump too fast and make assumptions – there could be other factors at play - for example more people beach-combing. 

"There do seem to be an increase in sightings like this, which might suggest longer-term climatic factors."