On the shores of the Texas Gulf Shore beaches, sand hills resembling miniature volcanoes have popped up, with staff members explaining that the hills play a vital purpose in the ocean’s ecosystem. 

Staff at Quintana Beach County Park, which is located approximately 70 miles south of Houston, shared footage of the tiny sand piles containing a hole at the top on Sunday morning, explaining the strange hills’ purpose. 

Staff said that the mini volcanoes appeared due to “extremely low tide this morning” and were created by ghost shrimp. 

“We are experiencing an extremely low tide this morning, and ghost shrimp are creating mini volcanoes all over the beach,” staff wrote.

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According to Quintana Beach County Park staff, the tiny crustaceans are most often seen at the water’s edge, burrowing down in seafloor sediments and collecting bits of food. They are 3 to 4 inches long, and can dig burrows 4 feet deep.

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The beaches’ staff said that the shrimp play an important part of the intertidal ecosystem because they “drive oxygen into the sand.”

“They are an important part of intertidal ecosystems, because they drive oxygen into the sand as they burrow which helps organic matter to decompose, enriching the sediment, and ultimately providing food for more creatures,” staff said.