Thousands of dead crabs have washed up along the Kent coast, with environmental experts believing the cold weather in Britain is to blame.

The velvet swimming crabs - also called devil crabs - are thought to be victims of Britain's coldest December in 120 years, which left sea temperatures much lower than average.
Triste hallazgo: El Dr Alasdair Bruce, uno de los expertos que estudia los cangrejos muertos. Es el segundo año seguido que las playas han quedado colmadas de cangrejos

More than 40,000 of the crabs - Britain's largest swimming crab - are littering beaches around Thanet, along with smaller numbers of whelks, sponges and anemones.

Coastal warden Tony Sykes said: 'We suspect that climate change and warmer weather has lured the crabs towards the shoreline.

'They could also be attracted to these waters looking for kelp, to feed on.

'We believe the sudden temperature drop causes the crabs to suffer from hypothermia and die.'

It is the second year in a row that icy temperatures have killed sea creatures in such large numbers.

Thousands of them: Crabs washed up on the beach at Palm Bay, Margate, are thought to have died of hypothermia

Last year, the Environment Agency set up an inquiry amid fears a mystery virus could be to blame.

But an inquiry concluded the deaths were linked to the cold weather.

Thanet Coast Project Manager Tony Childs says he is surprised at the large numbers of crabs which have died.

'We had a crash in numbers last year and we hadn't expected such a large population,' he said.

'As happens with the circle of life in nature, we expect the crabs to be naturally dispersed from our shores very quickly by our local seagulls. We are hopeful the crab population will soon recover.'

Local resident Nicholas Branson, 43, described some beaches near Margate as being 'littered' with dead crabs.

He said: 'It's very sad to see all these dead crabs being washed up on shore.

'The winter has been very cold and it just goes to show that all animals are affected by freezing conditions - not just us humans.'

Crabs have been reported on beaches at Westbrook, Cliftonville and Kingsgate, while smaller numbers have been washed up between Broadstairs and Ramsgate.