Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Gastropoda
Clade: Vetigastropoda
Superfamily: Trochoidea
Family: Turbinidae

Genus/specie: Megastraea undosa

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: The Wavy Turbin Snail has a heavy, sculptured shell with undulating ridges in a turbinate-conical shape with a thick, pearly lining.
The light brown or tan shell color is caused by the fibrous periostracum covered with coralline algae and other epiphytes.

Size: up to 6 inches

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Found from Point Conception and the coastal Channel Islands to northern Baja California, Mexico. They range from the intertidal zone down to depths of over 250 feet.

DIET IN THE WILD: M. undosa are herbivores feeding on various types of algae.

REPRODUCTION; Year around with peaks in spring and fall.

CONSERVATION: Because wavy turban snails are hand-picked by divers, the fishery is at low risk for bycatch .
Wavy turban snails are abundantly available and have a high productivity rate, so over- harvesting is less likely.

REMARKS: The shells of wavy turban snails are used to make buttons!

The meat has an abalone-like texture and taste; foot of the snail is processed and sold to restaurants as an abalone-like product, “wav alone”.  They can be prepared many ways: grilled, sautéed, battered and fried, in pastas, in chowders and soups, and in stir fries.


California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium Tidepool 2017

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Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Polyplacophora
Order: Neolocrcata
Family: Acanthochitonidae

Genus/species: Cryptochiton stelleri

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: The gumboot is a long, meatloaf-like chiton with a brick-red mantle covering the eight plates of their jointed shell. The shell plates are completely internal in adults. This is the largest chiton in the world; it grows to 33 cm (13 in). It may live up to 20 years.

Gumboot Chiton32905300616_5519787bf4_k

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Found from Alaska west to Japan and south to the Channel Islands, the gumboot chiton inhabits rocky intertidal areas to 80 feet, often among kelp.

DIET IN THE WILD: A nocturnal grazer, it used its long, tongue like radula to scrape off the upper tissue of soft red algae and various coralline algae, giant kelp and oarweed, in the process getting nutrition from the tiny organisms that live on the algae’s surface. The radula is covered with tiny, very hard teeth that give it the texture of rough sandpaper.


PREDATORS: Its only known predator is the large rock snail Ocenebra lurida, which drills through the chiton’s outer covering with its radula to feed on the flesh below.

REPRODUCTION: The sexes are separate; eggs and sperm are broadcast into the sea.


REMARKS: California coastal Native Americans may have eaten them, as shell plates have been found in middens. An Academy researcher states that this chiton was a food of the last resort, “tastes ghastly!”

The radulae of chitons and limpets are unique in having a high percentage of iron magnetite incorporated into the feeding teeth. Magnetite is so named because it is strongly attracted to magnets, and you can actually pick up this chiton’s teeth and radula with a magnet!
When exposed to air during low tide, the gumboot chiton can breathe at a reduced rate by absorbing oxygen from the atmosphere.

The red fuzzy stuff often on the surface is red algae. About 20 species of red algae are known to live on subtidal individuals. This chiton’s diet of red algae also contributes to its color.

Chitons are among the most ancient living mollusk groups, dating back to 400–500 million years ago.


California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium Tidepool 2017

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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Echinodermata
Class: Asteroidea
Order: Forcipulatida
Family: Asteriidae

Genus/species: Pisaster ochraceus

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Color varies from orange, violet, dark brown or mottled, but very rarely ochre. One study showed that less than two percent of the individuals in three local Northern California populations were “ochre” in color. When dead and dry they become ochre in color.

The aboral surface contains many small spines (ossicles) that are arranged in a netlike or pentagonal pattern. Papulae or coelomic pouches give the seastar’s surface a soft, fuzzy appearance. They are used for respiration and waste excretion. P. ochraceus may have an arm radius of up to 28 cm (11 in), but the more common radius is half that figure. They typically have five arms or rays, but the number can range from four to seven. Like all sea stars, an adult P. ochraceus has tube feet which they use for locomotion and for handling prey.

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Ochre stars range from Alaska to Santa Barbara County, California. They prefer the low-to-mid intertidal zones on rocky shores, especially on mussel beds, and are also found in the subtidal zone to a depth of 88 m (288 ft). Juveniles are found in crevices and under rocks.

DIET IN THE WILD: California mussels are the favored and locally abundant prey. They also consume acorn barnacles, emarginated dogwinkles, gooseneck barnacles, owl limpets, etc. They can insert their stomach into slits as narrow as 0.1 mm between the valves of bivalves and begin digestion.

ACADEMY DIET: Manila clams, chopped fish, large krill, chopped squid; it also eats other exhibit inhabitants.

REPRODUCTION: They are mainly dioecious (separate sexes). Male gametes are produced, but at a later date only females gametes are produced. During a transitional period, both eggs and sperm are produced. The gonopores of the individual gonads open at the bases of the arms. Fertilization is external. Larvae are free-swimming and plankton-feeding.

LIFESPAN: Up to 20 years

PREDATORS: Adults are eaten by sea otters and seagulls. According to Dr. Thomas Niesen, the sea otter can crunch them up but is also known to bite off the tips of the arms and suck out the gonads.

REMARKS:  One study showed that less than 2% of the individuals in three local Northern California populations were “ochre” in color. When dead and dry they become ochre in color.

P. ochraceus tolerate strong surges, large temperature changes, dilution by rainfall. It is resistant to desiccation and it can tolerate a loss of thirty-percent of its body weight in body fluids.

Sea stars can regenerate lost arms with a portion of the central disc intact and in some species from a single arm.

NOTE:   SEA STAR WASTING SYNDROME has become a major issue in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans since 2013. For an excellent summary check this link to the University of Santa Cruz 9-9-14.

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.

11-17-14 Recent research identifies a virus (Parvoviridae) to be responsible for the wasting disease. Introduced virus was able to infect healthy sea stars with the virus, which then leads to the wasting symptoms. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.


Additional References

California Academy of Sciences Docent Tidepool Guide 2015

Woods Hole

Bishop Museum

Encyclopedia of Life

Animal Diversity Web, U of Michigan

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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Cnidaria
Class: Anthozoa
Subclass: Zoantharia
Order: Actiniara (anemones)
Family: Actiniidae

Genus/species: Urticina piscivora

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Large to 20 cm (8 inches) high and 26 cm (10 inches) across. The column is red (without spots) with white. Tentacles are white, and the oral disc is creamy yellow. Normally they do not accumulate debris such as shells and sand.


DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Alaska to southern California. Found in low intertidal areas with rocky attachment sites and at least moderate current. Depth to about 50 m (160 feet)


DIET IN THE WILD: Invertebrates, shrimp and small fishes. U. piscivora have no zooxanthellae and depend wholly on capturing their food, a strategy aided by their exceptionally virulent nematocysts (stinging cells), which can cause long-lasting lesions on humans. Food items are usually swept into the central mouth by the tentacles where enzymes digest the food. Non digested items are expelled out through the mouth.


Genus/species: Urticina piscivora3702912695_1708579b2e_b 


REMARKS: One fish species, the painted greenling (Oxylebius pictus), has been observed lying unharmed in this anemone much as clownfish do in tropical anemones. 


California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium California Coastal Marine Reef Exhibit


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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Cnidaria
Class: Anthozoa
Order: Actiniaria
Family: Metridiidae

Genus/species: Metridium farcimen  aka Metridium giganteum
Metridium farcimen4545409258_06cac3dd83_b

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Erect smooth column. Usually 50 cm (20 in) or less in height The column is slender, smooth and studded with acontia. These are openings through which thread-like nematocysts from inside the body wall can protrude. The oral disc is lobed and deeply convoluted at the edge and bears well over 100 fine, short, tapering tentacles. Color variable from white through cream to tan, brown and orange. Carries short, feathery tentacles in white, brown or gray.

 Metridium farcimenIMG_9548

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Eastern North Pacific: Alaska to Baja California. Found in sub tidal areas attached to rocky substrate. Individuals usually aggregate in groups on deeper rocky reefs.

 Metridium farcimen4673318353_928bfcd2f0_o

DIET IN THE WILD: Plankton—whatever drifts by or is carried in by the tide; predators include Pisaster spp. sea star and some species of nudibranchs.

REPRODUCTION: Eggs and sperm from the gonads embedded in the body wall which are ejected through the mouth. Fertilised eggs develop into planula larvae which settle and metamorphose into polyps.                   

PREDATORS: Pisaster spp. sea star and some species of nudibranchs.

REMARKS: When attacked, they contract suddenly, extruding specialized nematocysts through the mouth and body wall that, much larger than those found in the tentacles, can deter or even kill predators.

 Location: California Rocky Coast and Giant Pacific Octopus exhibits


 The University of Kansas


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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Annelida
Class: Polychaeta
Order: Sabellida
Family: Sabellidae

Genus/species: Eudistylia vancouveri

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: E. vancouveri secretes a soft, leathery, parchment like tube. The peristomium has several featherlike banded green and purple or maroon light sensitive radioles (tentacles) that are closely associated with the mouth and used for feeding, forming a feather-duster like structure. The radioles are also used for gas exchange (like gills) but the circulatory pattern within them is unusual. Instead of having afferent and efferent vessels, the radioles have a single branchial vessel in each radiole which the blood flows in and out of. Sabellids possess giant nerve fibers running down their body which allows them to retract rapidly into their tube if disturbed.

The pencil like vertical tubes are up to about 45 cm (18 in) long and the tentacle plumes up to 2 inches in diameter.

An excellent group of diagrams of fan worm anatomy can be found on page 27 of the Marine Biology Coloring Book by T. Niesen (2000).


Northern Feather Duster Worm30312750995_19fd3dac96_o

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Found from Alaska to central California in low intertidal areas to 20 m (60 ft) deep. Often in large clusters attached to crevices of boulders, bedrock, pilings; and on vertical rock faces and surge channels in heavy surf.

DIET IN THE WILD: Plankton-feeders such as this often live where there are strong currents and wave action, moving food past the animal at a high rate.

REPRODUCTION: The sexes are separate in these worms, but gametes are produced on internal surfaces rather than in gonads. During spawning, the sperm and eggs are carried up the same groove that carries the fecal pellets and shed into the water. Fertilization is thus a random process, and the larvae that develop are planktonic spheroids with flagella and cilia, at first looking nothing like worms. They add segments little by little and finally drop out of the plankton as real worms, to begin their feather-duster life.

REMARKS: Fan Worms are marine segmented worms that are sessile, attached to rocks or sand by their base. They are a member of the phylum Annelida, which also includes earthworms. Fan Worms are usually of the families Terebellidae (Medusa Worms), Sabellidae (Feather Dusters), or Serpulidae (Christmas Worms). While their close cousins the mobile (Errantia) bristleworms have a body with equal segments (metameres), the sessile bristleworms (Sedentaria) will have body segments of different sizes.
California Academy of Sciences California Costal Marine Reef exhibit 2016


California Academy of Sciences J. Charles Delbeek, M.Sc.
Assistant Curator, Steinhart Aquarium


University of Puget Sound……

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Sculpins are small fish of the family Cottidae (order Scorpaeniformes).

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Sculpins are elongated, tapered fish, usually with wide, heavy heads. The gill covers have one or more spines, the pectoral fins are large and fan like, and the skin is either naked or provided with small spines.


DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Marine tidepools, California coast.



California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium Tidepool 2016


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Cephalopoda
Order: Octopoda
Family: Octopodidae

Genus/species: Octopus bimaculoides

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Usually a mottled-brown color with a dark deep-blue ovoid spot under each eye. It can use the chromatophores in its skin to change its color and texture when hunting for prey or hiding from predators (including its eye spots).

Size to 3 feet (including its body and outstretched arms)

2spot Octopus25853155380_e17555cef7_k

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Found from central California to northern Baja California among reefs and pilings on the sea floor.

DIET IN THE WILD: Limpets, black abalone, snails, clams, hermit crabs and small fishes. Prey are subdued with a parrotlike beak and toxic secretions through a salivary gland. Their food is then scraped out with a radula.

REPRODUCTION: Females lay up to 150,000 eggs under rocks from late winter to early summer, then brood on them continuously for 2-4 months. During brooding, the female doesn’t feed and usually dies when eggs hatch.

Two-spot Octopus26033508582_96a0c27793_k

Life Span: One-and-a-half to two years.

PREDATORS: Moray eels, scorpionfish and humans. Arms are often lost during a fight with a moray eel and can regenerate.

CONSERVATION: O bimaculoides is very sensitive to impaired water quality, thus water pollution is an issue for its survival.


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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Chondrichthyes
Subclass: Elasmobranchii (sharks and rays)
Order: Rajiformes (Skates and rays)
Family: Myliobatidae (Cownose and Manta Rays)

Genus/species: Rhinoptera javanica


GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: R. javanica is a cartilaginous fish with bat-like, swept back pectoral fins. Double-lobed snout and indented forehead. Long, slender tail. Brown above, white below. The stinger is located at base of the tail rather than half way or more down the tail as in the whiptail rays
Width up to 1.5 m (5 ft), weight up to 45 kg (100 lbs).

Rhinoptera javanica2981790284_a7f88eab35_b

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Tropical, Indo-West Pacific from South Africa north to India and possibly Thailand, Indonesia and southern China. Also in Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands.  The Javanese Cownose Ray inhabits tropical bays, estuaries, among mangroves, and near coral reefs over sand and mud bottoms. It can also tolerate brackish water.

JAVANESE COWNOSE RAY (Rhinoptera javanica) IMG_1769

DIET IN THE WILD: Feeds on clams, oysters and crustaceans. The ray sucks in sand and expels it out of its gills, blowing off sand covering its prey. (Looking for prey below)

Javanese Cownose Ray Rhinoptera javanica (Myliobatidae) eating IMG_0015

REPRODUCTION: Mating pair orient in a venter to venter position, and the male inserts one or both claspers. Ovoviviparous, 1–2 pups per litter. Females have been known to leap out of the water and slam into the surface; this action seems to be an aid in birthing.


A declining population is inferred from the unregulated nature of inshore fisheries as well as small litter size.


REMARKS:  Like its pelagic relatives the manta and devil rays, it swims by flapping its pectoral fins like wings, enabling it to swim at greater speeds than most bottom dwelling stingrays. Sometimes these “wings” protrude above the water, bearing a frightening resemblance to a shark.


California Academy of Sciences Reef Lagoon 2016



IUCN Red List

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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Cnidaria
Class: Anthozoa
Subclass: Hexacorallia (includes stony corals, all sea anemones, tube anemones, and zoanthids)
Order: Actiniaria (sea anemones)
Family: Actiniidae (largest family of sea anemones)

Genus/species: Anthopleura elegantissima

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Most are olive to bright green (depending on the species of algal symbionts present) with tentacles tipped in pink. The oral disk has approximately 100 tentacles in three or four rows around its margins. Those that are deficient in photosynthetically active radiation, such as under docks or in caves, lack symbionts and are pale yellow to white in color.
Disc 2-3 cm (0.78-1.2 in) across, under water.

Aggregating Anemones23710001752_0cf3a8e808_k

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Common in tide pools. The body of the anemone is firmly attached to rock substrate and detritus and sand adheres to the column almost covering them.

DIET IN THE WILD: Capture tiny crustaceans and other animals past their tentacles using their stinging nematocysts (also called cnidocytes) on the surface of their tentacles.

REPRODUCTION: To clone themselves, anemones split in half tearing themselves apart (asexual reproduction). Aggregating anemones also reproduce sexually by broadcasting eggs and sperm.

PREDATORS: Their are few known predators but include the nudibranch Aeolidia papillosa, leather star Dermasterias imbricata and mosshead sculpin Clinocottus globiceps.

REMARKS: When one colony of genetically identical polyps encounters a different genetic colony, the two will wage territorial battles. A. elegantissima has specialized tentacles called acrorhagi to deter non identical colonies from encroaching on their space. It extends the acrorhagi to attack the competing anemone with nematocytes leaving behind a ‘peel’ of the ectoderm and nematocysts that causes tissue necrosis in the receiving animal.


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